In early 2016, Dwayne Haskins decommitted from Maryland, choosing to play quarterback at Ohio State instead, after it became clear that Michael Locksley, the team’s interim coach at the time, would not stay with the program. Three years later, Terrapins football fans wonder — and they wonder loudly — how the decision of the 2018 Heisman Trophy finalist might have changed the trajectory of the program.
Then there’s Logan Wisnauskas, who plays lacrosse at Maryland but somehow has his own place in this story, too.
Wisnauskas started at quarterback for Boys' Latin School of Maryland in Baltimore and attended the Terps' football camp in the summer of 2015, just before his senior year of high school. He was one of the top quarterbacks at the camp, said his dad, Trent, and once Haskins decommitted, Wisnauskas thought maybe he’d get a call with a scholarship offer. He loved lacrosse and always thought that’d be the sport he pursued at the next level, but Wisnauskas was ready to change plans because, as he said, “Who wouldn’t want to be a starting college quarterback?”
A couple months before that, the Delaware football coach had planned to watch one of Wisnauskas’s final high school games, another moment Wisnauskas saw as a chance to receive a football scholarship. But the coach missed the game thanks to traffic, and Wisnauskas thought maybe that was a sign. He’d play college lacrosse, sticking with the commitment to Syracuse he made as a sophomore.
Football has been absent from his daily routine for a few years, but the skills remain and have benefited Wisnauskas’s lacrosse career. Now in his second year at Maryland after transferring from Syracuse, Wisnauskas will begin the season Saturday against Bucknell as one of the team’s top two returning goal-scorers, along with Jared Bernhardt. Wisnauskas, a midfielder, and Bernhardt, an attackman, both see the field well, know how to make quick decisions and are used to physical play — all a credit to their skill but also to their pasts. Bernhardt, like Wisnauskas, led his high school football team as the starting quarterback.
“We love multisport guys, just because they’re competing all the time,” Maryland Coach John Tillman said. “They deal with success. They have to deal with failure.”
Football, basketball, soccer and hockey are all common second sports for lacrosse players, Tillman said. Basketball and soccer teach footwork, while football and hockey groom physicality. Basketball and soccer include nonstop thinking and require an ability to stay ahead of the play, which carry over well, too. And then there are quarterbacks and point guards, who know how to lead and make decisions.
Kyle Long, a freshman attackman, played point guard on his high school basketball team and football, too, so his transition to college has been smooth, Tillman said. It’s in part, Tillman added, why Long will have considerable playing time early for Maryland, which reached each of the past five Final Fours and is No. 3 nationally in Inside Lacrosse’s preseason rankings.
Sure, the former quarterbacks’ skills become useful during the Terps lacrosse team’s annual Turkey Bowl, a pre-Thanksgiving, two-hand-touch football tournament. (The teams are determined based on the region of players’ hometowns. Wisnauskas played quarterback for Team Maryland, which won this year, while Bernhardt, a Florida native, led Team Other to the victory a year ago.)
But the traits they learned from playing on Fridays in the fall bred a more important calm confidence that translates to lacrosse. As Tillman said, the ability to look into 10 sets of eyes in a huddle, asking them to believe, is not a simple task.
“Quarterback is not just a position,” said Bernhardt’s dad, Jim, who played lacrosse and football at Hofstra before beginning a career as a football coach, most recently as the Houston Texans’ director of football research. “It’s a role and an obligation of leadership and example on the field and in the locker room.”
Wisnauskas enjoyed the contact in football, but he likes how lacrosse presents a competitive “one-on-one battle between you and your defender.” He loved the preparation and then the chance to show what he’d worked toward on Friday.
Growing up, Bernhardt’s dad would talk to his sons about having a football mentality in a lacrosse world, referring to an attention to detail, work ethic and commitment level they learned from football that would separate them from other lacrosse players. Both of Bernhardt’s older brothers, Jake and Jesse, also played football in high school and lacrosse at Maryland. Jesse is an assistant with the Terps, and Jake is an assistant at Vermont.
Bernhardt grew up around the Maryland program, attending practices, games and camps. Tillman first saw the youngest Bernhardt as a middle-schooler at a camp when the coach noticed he was a dynamic and explosive playmaker.
But like Wisnauskas, Bernhardt also had a choice — not just between schools but between sports. He committed to Maryland lacrosse as a sophomore but left open the door to a college football career. The Bernhardts were transparent with Tillman about the process, and the Maryland coach always knew there was a chance he wouldn’t have the third brother on his roster. Bernhardt’s high school ran the triple option, and he considered accepting a scholarship to play at Navy. So the choice became football or lacrosse, Annapolis or College Park.
Bernhardt’s dad thought the one piece of football his son worried about giving up was the camaraderie. But then the older brothers would each send their dad photos from their professional games with all the Maryland lacrosse alumni gathered together afterward. Tillman said seeing the relationships his brothers built might have been the best recruiting tool.
“It was just a matter of what he chose to do,” Tillman said. “We kind of had our preference, but we kept that to ourselves and let him figure it out.”
And since that preference turned out to be in line with Bernhardt’s choice, both he and Maryland have benefited.
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