CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers wide receiver Brenton Bersin has something in common with the man writing his paycheck.
Bersin made Carolina’s 53-man roster over the weekend, becoming only the second player from Wofford College to make an NFL roster. The other is Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, a receiver for the Baltimore Colts more than a half century ago.
“That’s an honor, right there,” Bersin said.
The 24-year-old Bersin can only hope for the same success as Richardson, who caught a touchdown pass from Johnny Unitas in the 1959 NFL Championship game – and later his used his rookie signing bonus to open a successful burger chain and eventually bring the expansion Panthers to the Carolinas.
Bersin isn’t too worried about opening a chain of burger restaurants, let alone owning an NFL team. His goal is much simpler: to make an impact with the Panthers.
If Bersin can succeed it would be the completion of a fairytale story.
He grew up in Charlotte and attended high school just minutes from where the Panthers play.
He attended the team’s first regular season home game in 1995 at Clemson University as a 5-year-old. He’s been following the Panthers ever since, so playing for Richardson is a dream come true.
“I haven’t talked to him,” said Bersin, his shoulder length blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. “I don’t think he communicates with the players that much. I haven’t gotten a congratulatory call but if I see him I will talk to him about it.”
Bersin’s story is one of perseverance.
He signed with Carolina as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and was cut twice by the team. Earlier this year he thought about getting a “real job” in financing, but instead agreed to play for the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena League.
Bersin said that experience, along with facing Carolina’s No. 2 ranked defense every day in practice as a member of the scout team has helped elevate his game.
Coach Ron Rivera has noticed Bersin’s steady progression.
“He’s a gifted athlete to begin with and he’s a smart, intelligent football player,” Rivera said. “It was a matter of developing him and he did that very quickly over the last couple of seasons. It doesn’t surprise me he made the team because of the way he plays and how he works. He made plays (in the preseason) when he had opportunities. He made plays in traffic and made clutch plays.”
Bersin’s next challenge is to find his way on the field in the regular season.
He’s one of five receivers on Carolina’s roster, and it’s unclear if he’ll be among the 46 active players come Sunday when the Panthers visit Tampa Bay.
Rivera has already said he considers rookie Kelvin Benjamin and veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant his top three receivers, which leaves Bersin in a battle with undrafted rookie Philly Brown for the No. 4 receiver spot. Brown could have an edge given he can return punts and kickoffs.
Bersin has plenty of folks rooting for him.
“I love him as a player and a person and I’ve been one of his biggest supporters,” said veteran linebacker Thomas Davis. “Now it’s about him continuing to grow from what he’s accomplished. And I think he’ll be big this year for us. I’ve watched him get better and continue to make plays.”
Bersin said he thought about giving up on his NFL dream at one point, but decided against it.
Now his dream of playing for the Panthers has come true.
“It’s always been taught to me since I was a little kid – don’t quit,” Bersin said.