Last March, Jared Bernhardt thought his Maryland men’s lacrosse career was over. As a senior when the 2020 season was canceled, Bernhardt didn’t know at the time whether the NCAA would grant spring athletes an extra year of eligibility.
The NCAA later extended players’ eligibility, but even after he was given another year at the university, Bernhardt still didn’t think he’d come back. His attention was drawn to a different sport: football.
A standout in both lacrosse and football in high school, Bernhardt’s affinity for football never waned during his time with the Terps. And in May 2020, he announced his intention to play football at Division II Ferris State instead of spending an extra year with Maryland.
However, that football season never took place last fall, leading Bernhardt back to coach John Tillman, his teammates and the program he represented three times as an All-American.
“Obviously, it was a bummer football wasn’t able to happen,” Bernhardt said. “I just look at it as another opportunity to come back full circle, back here to College Park with a great group of guys … that really wants to win. I’m really grateful for that.”
On Saturday against Penn State, Bernhardt broke the Terps’ record for most goals scored with his 156th career marker. And he didn’t stop there, later tying his career high with eight points in the game.
As Maryland moved to 7-0, Bernhardt had both a record-setting performance and a career day. The Longwood, Florida, native proved that if the Terps are going to compete for a national title this season, he’ll be the one to lead them there.
“I’m trying to win for the team,” Bernhardt said. “But I actually want the seniors and a lot of these guys that maybe haven’t been to the final four and championship weekend, I want them to go out like that.”
On Saturday, Bernhardt showed he’s more than just a goal scorer. His three assists, in addition to five goals against the Nittany Lions, moved him into second all-time in career points behind Matt Rambo, whom he passed to set the goal record.
Through seven games this season, jersey number one is number one for Maryland in goals and second in points, while leading the Terps’ offensive corps in ground balls and caused turnovers.
After not picking up a lacrosse stick for nine months, Bernhardt returned and contributed more than even his coach could imagine.
“He came back and has been a man on a mission,” Tillman said. “In that way, he’s really helped us because he’s been so focused, and he’s a guy that is always competing so hard that it raises everybody else’s level.”
After the win over Penn State, Maryland’s star said he never thought about breaking the record — he only thought about winning the game. The way Bernhardt conducted himself in that moment is the way he’s garnered the respect of his teammates over the years.
A player with as many accolades as Bernhardt is bound to be a leader in some capacity. For him, much of the leading is done by example.
“Personally, I’ve never seen anyone like him on the lacrosse field,” defenseman Brett Makar said. “He always leaves us in awe with what he does on the field, but off the field and the way he carries himself, speaks more volumes than anyone could ever imagine.”
Saturday was all about Bernhardt, and no one will be surprised if the rest of the season is the same. Even if he’s the prime target of the Terps’ opponents going forward, Bernhardt said he’ll continue to push his teammates to strive for that ultimate goal.
“Whether they like me or don’t like me, if I’m too hard on them, then that’s how it’s going to be,” Bernhardt said. “I want those guys to be happy at the end of the year, so we gotta do what we have to do.”