via Lax Magazine and US Lacrosse – photos by John Strohsacker
Jesse and Jake Bernhardt were outliers. In a state that worshipped football and, to a lesser extent, baseball, the Bernhardt brothers excelled at lacrosse.
Granted, they had a head start on training. Their father, Jim Bernhardt, brought to Florida some of his old bucket helmets and leather gloves from his days with Hofstra lacrosse for Jake and Jesse to use.
Still, the Orlando natives had no league in which to play nor formal training. Except for three days every summer. That’s when then-Loyola coach Dave Cottle held a lacrosse camp at a local park. Cottle’s camp ignited the Bernhardts’ love for lacrosse, a sport relatively unknown to most in the Sunshine State. They went on to star for Cottle and then John Tillman at Maryland. Both now play in Major League Lacrosse.
“There really wasn’t a lot going on when we started playing,” Jesse Bernhardt said. “Before us, there really weren’t too many guys that played lacrosse.”
Now, more than a decade later, Jake and Jesse Bernhardt are helping bring the sport of lacrosse back to their home state. This time, they’ll be playing together for Team USA at this weekend’s Spring Premiere at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. — just two hours from where they first learned the game.
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