For 30 seconds last weekend, Brenton Bersin was a Pittsburgh Steeler.
Bersin, a 2008 Charlotte Latin School grad who went on to play football at Wofford College, was in his Spartanburg, S.C., apartment on April 28 watching the late stages of the NFL Draft with his big brother, Bradford. Because of the strong career he had at Wofford and conversations he’d had with numerous NFL scouts, Bersin had hoped to hear his name called during the draft. But it never happened.
Then, as the draft wound down to its last few picks, Bersin’s agents, Joel and Justin Turner, called. They’d been on the line with Pittsburgh and his hometown Carolina Panthers with offers to join their teams as an undrafted free agent.
“At first, we had decided to go to Pittsburgh because we thought it might be the better opportunity,” Bersin recalled. “I hung up the phone and told my brother, ‘I’m going to be a Steeler.’
“Thirty seconds later, my agent calls back, and he’s like, ‘You’re a Panther!’ I said, ‘Didn’t you just tell me I was a Steeler?’ And he said, ‘We called Carolina, and they had a better offer, so you’re a Panther.’”
And with that, Bersin realized his childhood dream: He’d be joining the Panthers, a team owned by the man who lived two doors down from his family in south Charlotte, Jerry Richardson.
“My brother and I both freaked out,” Bersin said. “I was born and raised in Charlotte, so this is like a dream come true. It was amazing because I found out literally right as (the draft) ended.
“I called my mom (Julia Golonka) immediately after I found out, and, honestly, she didn’t have the reaction I thought she’d have. I think she couldn’t process what happened. She was just like, ‘What? What does that mean?’ Later, she called me back extremely happy and overwhelmed.”
That’s also been the case at Charlotte Latin, where Bersin became an athletic legend of sorts.
“It’s just really very exciting – the whole school is excited about this,” said Larry McNulty, Charlotte Latin’s football coach. “I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and said, ‘That’s awesome news about Brenton! Isn’t this great?’
“He’s a very talented kid who we’ve kept up with while he was at Wofford. They don’t throw the ball there a lot, but he averaged nearly 20 yards a catch. But he’s always been a special athlete. I had him in eighth grade playing touch football, and no one could touch him – he was too elusive. He’s really fulfilled his potential.”
While Bersin was pleasantly surprised to wind up with the Panthers, he had many reasons to believe he’d wind up in an NFL minicamp this spring.
On the heels of a senior season in which he caught a Wofford-record-tying nine touchdowns, joining Richardson for that honor, “10 or 12” NFL scouts contacted Bersin and his agents.
Bersin had two workouts in front of NFL teams – one at Wofford’s pro day and another at Coastal Carolina University’s pro day. Bersin said there were “10 or 12” teams at Wofford and upward of 20 at Coastal Carolina.
“My (40-yard dash) times were better at Wofford,” said Bersin, who finished in 4.56 seconds on his home turf. “Coastal’s field was a little wet early that morning, so it was tough. But running routes at Coastal, I did really well. There were (six) receivers there, and I think I was the only receiver that didn’t have any drops. I ran the routes well. I think it went pretty well.”
In addition to the Panthers and Steelers, during last week’s draft, Bersin and his agents had talks with scouts from the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, and Miami Dolphins. And although his name never was called during the television broadcasts, Bersin is as happy as a first-round draft pick.
Now, he’s focused on finishing his final five classes at Wofford this semester. With a double major in accounting and finance, Bersin said it won’t be easy, especially since he has to attend a Panthers minicamp next week.
“But my teachers have told me that there should be a way for them to work with me,” he said, “so I should be able to graduate pretty easily.
“I want to make this happen. In high school, I wasn’t highly recruited, so I picked Wofford more for the education. I figured that since I didn’t go to a big school, I might not go to the NFL. But I stuck with it, my coaches believed in me, and everything’s worked out so far.”