He was the third-to-last player taken in the National Football League draft in April, but Mackenzy Bernadeau is still on the roster of the Carolina Panthers after the team's mini-camp and several weeks of "summer school" sessions.
Bernadeau, a 6-foot-4-inch, 308-pound offensive lineman who starred at Waltham High and then at Division 2 Bentley College, will approach the team's full preseason training camp that opens July 26 with realistic expectations.
"I want to make the team and I want to get on the field and make some plays," said Bernadeau, the first player from Bentley to be drafted by an NFL team. "There's a big adjustment here because the pro playbook is a lot bigger than the college playbook. "
Bernadeau missed the second half of his senior season at the Waltham college after suffering a knee injury. Although his selection last fall to three All-America teams and being named the Northeast- 10 Conference's Offensive Lineman of the Year look good on his resume, Bernadeau was unable to play in two postseason all-star games while he recuperated from knee surgery.
Although he was not invited to the NFL's scouting combine, Bernadeau was given a chance to work out at Boston College's pro day in March alongside 20 other prospects. It was a turning point.
"We got into this kid when we were up at Boston College. We thought he had a lot of growth potential as a player," said Don Gregory, director of college scouting for the Panthers.
"I felt I did well enough to showcase myself and to show my knee was OK," recalled Bernadeau, the 250th pick overall. "I always pushed myself to be the best in college and I also got pushed by my coaches and teammates. I was at home when the call came from the Panthers that I was drafted. It was an exciting time for my family and it was a relief."
Meanwhile, former Needham High soccer and lacrosse player Steve Hauschka is impressing the Minnesota Vikings. After kicking first at Middlebury College, then North Carolina State, he is battling 12-year veteran Ryan Longwell on the Vikings depth chart.
Hauschka never played organized football until he enrolled at Middlebury, where he spent three seasons as the Division 3 team's place-kicker and punter and set school records for single-season (10) and career (20) field goals.
He had one season of college football eligibility remaining last fall as a graduate student at Division 1 N.C. State, where he converted all 25 of his extra-point attempts and added 16 field goals in 18 tries, in addition to kicking off.
In one highlight, Hauschka hit four field goals in a 19-16 win over Miami - three in the fourth quarter and a 42-yard game-winner in overtime - which earned him Atlantic Coast Conference honors as its specialist of the week.
"He's a very talented guy," said Vikings special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro. "I think he's got a lot of upside and I think he's got a future in this league."
Unsure whether he could make the soccer varsity and always curious whether his strong leg could have an impact on the football field, Hauschka walked into Middlebury football coach Bob Ritter's office in the spring of his freshman year and asked for a tryout.
It was step one to the NFL - not completely unfamiliar territory for his family, since Hauschka's father, Peter, who played soccer and club rugby at Amherst College, had a free agent contract and tried out as a kicker with the Cowboys in 1967.
"Kicking is kicking no matter where you go, but being able to play at the D-1 level last year was a great confidence boost for me. I actually missed my first kick in the Miami game, so to bounce back was a highlight of my season," said Hauschka, who reports to preseason camp July 23.
Hauschka has been accepted to five schools of dentistry, including Boston University and Tufts. His mother, Barbara, has a dental practice in Brookline. "It's something to fall back on," he said, "but now my focus is on football. . . . If I reach or come close to my potential, I could be a starting kicker in this league."
Two other area players signed NFL deals this spring, although they are not on any rosters this summer:
Marvin Pave can be reached at 508-620-4223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.