TAMPA, Fla. (BVM) — From the film room to the football field. That’s the unconventional journey that University of South Florida long-snapper Bryce Bernard had on his way to becoming a Division I athlete.
Entering the 2020 NCAA football season, you could find Bernard in one of the hydraulic lifts surrounding the Bulls practice field, camera in hand. But after a few injuries to their offensive line, the freshman quickly found himself in a new position.
The story began in preseason camp, when backup long snapper Andrew Beardall tore his ACL. Then COVID-19 hit, eliminating their spring walk-on tryouts. The Bulls were left with just linebacker Antonio Greer as their emergency long snapper. But Phillip Cane, the football team video coordinator, knew that Bernard had long snapped in high school.
Real nonchalantly, Bernard was made aware of the possibility that he may be headed towards a future of helmet and pads.
“My boss, the film coordinator goes, ‘Hey Bryce, I know you long snapped. Let’s talk to the coaches and see if they need you.’” Bernard said. “That was on a Saturday and then on Monday he called me and said, ‘Hey, they want to add you to the roster.’”
Just like that, the surprise roster addition was back on a practice field and to long snapping, which he did throughout his whole high school career at Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach. But first, he got to deliver the news to unexpecting friends and family.
Although everyone was thrilled for him, his dad and brother were probably the most exuberant.
“He (Bernard’s father) played college ball at Georgia Southern in the ‘80s and my brother played at a small NAIA down here,” Bernard said. “They were really excited because I’m keeping the family tradition going.”
Bernard himself was pretty ecstatic, too.
“A couple months ago I was a guy working a summer job, trying to pay for school and then to be playing against Cincinnati, just to travel on a plane, get prepared going into that week, being a starter for a football team,” Bernard said. “It’s a new feeling type of thing and I haven’t felt that in a while.”
As the new long snapper referenced, he got the start in USF’s Oct. 3 game against the University of Cincinnati. He handled all long snapping duties from punting to field goals to extra points.
He wasn’t just a body to fulfill their active roster requirements; he is a valuable piece to their special teams unit. Now that this is his reality, he’s just locked in on this season. He feels fortunate to be in this position, and looking ahead is not on his agenda.
Bernard wants to focus on making his transition back into football life. He admits that he wasn’t in football shape; he was just working out to stay healthy. And while he would’ve been at practice early every morning whether it was for film or actual practice, now he has weight lifting, team breakfast and team meetings to account for.
“Honestly, I just want to finish the season out without any problems. We had a bad punt snap last week but my goal is to do my job and perform at the best of my ability,” Bernard said. “We will see what happens after that in spring ball and so forth for the rest of my career.”