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When nobody believes in you, you have to believe in yourself. When you do, you’ll find yourself at the top of your game despite life’s adversaries. In this episode, Dan Clark interviews University of Utah Football star and three-star high school recruit in track, basketball, and football (among others), Micah Bernard. Micah dives into his journey to playing football at the University of Utah and reveals his mindset on what it takes to be successful. He takes us through his high school career, how he recovered from a disappointing senior year, and how he ended up playing for the University of Utah. Transitioning to the collegiate level, Micah then shares with us his work ethic and how he plays as a team guy rather than an individual. With impressive stats and an equally impressive mindset, Micah is for sure one to watch! Don’t miss out on this conversation as he shares his life and offers advice to other aspiring athletes on how to go to the next level.
Micah Bernard Dives Into His Journey To Playing Football At The University Of Utah And What It Takes To Be Successful
In this episode, University of Utah Football Star Micah Bernard, a three-star high school recruit in track, basketball, and football, all-CIF Southern California, Junior All-State and two-time all-area Offensive Player of the Year, set a Southern California high school record with 224-yard rushing, three touchdown performances as a running back in high school.
He shares his life and journey to play at the University of Utah, specializing in running and catching the ball, making him the best third-down back in the Pac-12 and giving us an inside glimpse into what it takes physically as an undersized running back to log two career, 100-yard rushing games, a career-high 146 rushing yards, and 1 touchdown on 12 carries against BYU, recording a career-long 50-yard rush in the game as well, which ranks him fourth all-time at Utah in a single game. If you feel undersized, you don’t want to miss this episode.
The coolest thing about Micah’s reputation is that he’s a team guy. As I’ve asked around, when Micah does something phenomenal on offense, most of the time, the offensive players stay on that side of the sideline if you see them segregated. When Micah does anything special, he not only transposes that energy, that excitement, and that pride that he just did something extraordinary, he shares it with his teammates.
I go over, pat some lineman on the shoulder pad, and my seats are so close. I watch them and the cool thing is that the defense goes crazy, too. The funniest thing, Micah, I’ve had many of the defensive players tell me they love it when you’re on the field because then they know they get a break. They’re over there like, “Pass it. Hand it off to Micah. I’m tired. We need three more plays on the sideline.” You’re one of the best secret weapons that the defense has to recuperate when there’s been a long series.
You got to know that they love you. They go, ” Keep it going.” Micah, give us your stature, number two, and take us all the way back to Gahr High School in Cerritos, California, which is Southern Cal. Take us through your high school career and how big you were as a sophomore, as a junior, and as a senior. I know exactly how big I was in each of those years and how much I weighed, and I suspect that you would do as well.
My freshman year started in 2016 or 2015. I came in freshman high school football. I weighed about 160 lbs. I wanted to play running back.
About 5′ 7″ or 5′ 8″. I wanted to play running back. That’s what they had me at. We also didn’t have a deep enough team. We were just to play one side, so I had to play middle linebacker. I was playing middle linebacker and I was hitting people, filling the holes and everything, doing my thing. I did play middle linebacker and wasn’t DB at that time. We didn’t have a great season, but I got to suit up on varsity for the last game and that was a good experience.
I got playing time in that game. I was a kickoff returner and got a couple of reps running back. We also got blown out in that last game. We didn’t end the season freshman year too well. Sophomore year is when I finally got the burn and I ran it back. We had a couple of good guys. They had me as the slot receiver. I was about 5’9″, about 170 lbs. or 180 lbs. it was a great year. We went to the first round of playoffs and lost. At that point, all the seniors are gone and those were the guys for the varsity team.
It’s time to build a new team and that’s where junior year came around. I was bigger, about 185 lbs. or 190 lbs. and about 6 feet. That’s when my career took off at that moment. We got a quarterback that year. He was decent. We weren’t a passing team so we had to figure something out. We went to Wildcat. I was playing quarterback all season long and at that point, it was crazy.
I remember my stats averaging 10 yards a carry, going for 200 yards each game, and averaging 3 touchdowns or more. The stats were amazing. That’s where all the colleges start coming in. I ended that year with 27 touchdowns and over 2,500 yards. I then had 500 yards receiving, so 3000 all-purpose yards. I submitted my name into the college programs. That year helped me, and I’m thankful for that year because my senior year did not go that well.
I can relate to that. Let’s just jump in there then. A gentleman I got to know was Roger Craig. I helped him write a speech you got to look him up. He’s an undersized running back, similar to you who played at Nebraska, he only played one year of high school football. He then went to Nebraska and he was drafted by the 49ers.
When he was brought into the 49ers, Coach Walsh designed the entire West Coast offense around him because he was a hard-running high knee running back who could catch. Let’s talk about your skillset. You’re catching balls out of the backfield, which makes sense. The year you were a slot receiver paid off as far as your preparation to become that all-purpose individual. What’s cool about you is you’re not this giant north and south running back that you would think is a stereotypical moose coming through the A gap.
You pick up yardage, put your head down, and run hard. Maybe that adds to the conversation. Because of your middle linebacker experience, you know what it’s like. You got to step up and fill that hole as a linebacker. As a running back, you better get there before the linebacker does. You don’t waste any time. You jam it right up and as an undersized back, that’s extraordinary. I don’t see another speed stir like you doing that, being asked to do what you do as a north and south running back. I want you to comment on your mindset. How do you get ready for that? You’re just as powerful going north or south as you are east and west with your speed.
I just got to believe in myself. A lot of people tell me, “You’re not big enough. You need to play to your strengths” and that. I can do that, I can play to my strengths and be great at that. I also want to add another level to my game. That’s being able to go down the hole, run somebody over, make a mess, or do something. It’s a mindset. My mindset is that I don’t want to be touched. If I got to be touched, I’m going to make sure you feel me before I feel you.
You’re a blocking back as well. You bring the whole package to every play. Talk to us about the mindset of recovering from a phenomenal junior year, knowing you’re going to get scholarship offers, and not having your senior year go well. Give us the details of that and what did you do about it.
It was frustrating, as I said, I was getting involved. I had 30 to 40 carries a game my junior year, and that went down to 10 carries.
I got a quarterback. We decided, “Let’s become a passing team.” Not to knock my guy Jordan, but he’s a great quarterback. He’s playing for Cerritos College right now. At the same time, it’s hard to go from going 30 carries a game to 10 carries a game and not seeing the same outcome as winning games and making the playoffs. We missed the playoffs my senior year. I was frustrated with that.
I know where my destiny is. I’m going to college. I know what I’m going to do, so I can’t be down on this. We keep fighting. I’m always fighting regardless of what the situation is. We’re losing, we’re winning. I’m still going to fight. The season wasn’t going as we had planned. We were fighting. We loved to play football, and the whole team did. We were just playing to play at that point. We created some lifelong friendships and bonds throughout that.
Being a speedster, what is your 40? What’s your 100-meter dash?
My 40 is about 441. The last time I ran the 100 was during my freshman year of high school. I didn’t run track in high school, but I ran 100 meters in my freshman year. It was 10-9 or 10-8. I wish I would’ve continued track. Who knows? Maybe I’m a 10-5 guy. That was freshman year at 10-9.
When a recruiter came to you, did they put an emphasis on you being a kick returner, maybe a punt returner, stereotyping your body type, or did they say,” We want you to be you who you are, a multifaceted, talented, running back?”
They didn’t stereotype me at all for size or anything. They wanted me and what I’ve done throughout the season, the film I put on, and the film they watched. They wanted that same guy.
What made you decide, did you have multiple recruiters in your home? Did you have multiple scholarship opportunities coming out of Cerritos?
I did. I had a total of 23 to 25 total scholarship offers, some from the Mountain West or most from the Pac-12. I had a good top 6 that I was deciding on going to, and it ultimately dropped down 1, which is Utah. That’s where I decided to come.
What makes Utah a great place to play football?
The fan base is crazy wild and I appreciate them. They travel with us and a lot of teams don’t get a lot of people that travel with them. They make away games feel more like home games. It always feels good to look in the stands and see red and know that they’re behind us.
Talk to us about your influence growing up. What was your family like? You have brothers and sisters that were as extraordinary athletes as well.
My sisters were cheerleaders. They weren’t athletes, but they did a lot. It was in Pop Warner. They were cheerleaders for the older teams, as I was the youngest one. I was pretty much the only athlete in my family other than my cousin. My cousin played football. He wrestled and did other stuff, but he didn’t go anywhere with it. Pretty much out of my family, I’m the only one that got to the next level with my athletic ability. My sisters went to college for academics, while I’m more into athletics.
The challenge is when a 4-star, 5-star athlete cruises onto campus with that attitude, “Don’t you know who I am? Haven’t you read my newspaper clippings? Get out of the way.” I watched them. I remember I played football and baseball and participate in many athletic programs around the country. What motivated you to take yourself to the next level? Many of these superstars think that they can ride in on their natural ability and their coattails, and that’s why many of them don’t make it at the collegiate level.
They’re like, “Don’t you remember who I was?” “Don’t who you know you’re dealing with here?” They plateaued off at high school, even though they got scholarship offers because of their stats. You come to the U and you’re getting better every single year. What’s your mindset, and how can you teach others to accept what your work ethic is to take themselves to the next level?
Coming to college, I humbled myself a bit because everybody was the best in high school. That’s why you’re getting recruited. That’s why you’re going to college. You’re the best. You have to understand that. When you get to college, everybody is good and that’s where you get humbled a bit. Coming out of high school, I was a three-star athlete. I was going to college with a lot of great guys and great athletes. When I first arrived on campus, seeing the worth ethic of everybody else and how good they were, I had to evolve my game.
High school is a different game. It’s not even close to college, and you have to be able to see that. You have to be willing to open your eyes. If you would be like, “I’m a five-star. I’m better than everybody. They rank me number one in the world,” college is going to be a cakewalk and you can do whatever you want. If you come in with an open mind and understand that not everybody’s on the same level, then that can help you want to get better.
That’s such a good answer. The reputation at Utah is that they will play the best players, even the walk-ons. Hubert, RJ was a walk-on. If you work and prove yourself, you’re going to get your playing time. They’re going to play the very best players, regardless if they gave you a scholarship or recruited you or not. When you’re a running back, how many total running backs are at the University of Utah and on the roster?
We have nine.
You’ve started many games. You’re an action player. The teams that win the NBA championship always have the best sixth man, the guy that can come in could start on every other team in the league, but the coach knows that if we need an infusion of energy, a change of cadence if the defense is used to this, and all of a sudden, they put in a speedster, a bulldozer. You’re one of the perfect role players on the team. You start, you come in key situations, and you go out for a pass. I’ve watched you catch some key passes. You had a great couple of games lately in bad weather.
How do you prepare yourself in a mindset way? You’re used to taking 30 or 40 snaps in junior and high school. You then come to the university and you have to be in the mindset of more of a role player. You’re more of a team guy. When you get that chance, you explode. You go through that line, you pick up your yard as you catch the pass, then you come off while another player takes in a new play. How do you adapt to being that guy to one of the guys that are more of a team guy than an individual?
I had to figure out what I was good at and what I could be better at than others which allows me to be on the field more. That’s when I started, you said, “Pick-up blitzes,” being the third down back, and that’s when I start to realize, “If I’m not playing, I’m 1st and 2nd down.” There are a lot of third-down opportunities that I can be a part of and I can be in the situation to be on the field more. That’s when I started to take blitz pickup very seriously. In high school, I didn’t have to pick up many blitzes. When I first got to Utah, I didn’t think I had to pick up blitzes.
I realized this is a key component of football. Every team needs a third-down guy, a third-down back who can read blitzes, pick them up, and also be able to go out for a pass and be able to catch the ball if they need to. When I realized that, that’s what made me want to elevate my game in that regard. I’m not a 1st or 2nd down back, which I think I am.
We all know you are, and you have been multiple times for several years.
I had to realize that we also have great better pieces that can do that better than me. I have to be able to do something better than them. It was being a third-down back. That’s what I hang my hat on now, and that’s what we’ve been doing.
What’s your work ethic? I’ve always believed that if I can start thinking as you think and start doing what you’re doing, I could become a champion like you.
For me, it was just learning the offense. When I came here, it was difficult to learn the offense. I said, “I have to learn the ins and out of this offense and be able to do it without even thinking.” When I lined up, I had to think of this and that. Now it’s just second nature, which makes playing much easier. I can just be me and do what I have to do.
Just be the athlete instead of the mind guy.
That was the biggest thing. Learn the playbook. Now I don’t have to think. I could just play.
It’s like the new movie Top Gun Maverick. It’s not the plane. It’s the pilot. Don’t think, do. Once you understand the plays, then it becomes second nature. You can just be athletic.
I like how you brought that in and thought about it. How many times did they go through the plane and the rides where they had to figure out each and every move before they can do it? That’s a good analogy. I like that one.
Let’s bring it into your favorite hobby, golf. I’ve taken golf lessons and every single time I take a golf lesson and play, I’m worse. I’m all mechanical. I’m trying to think it through and do this when you can say, “I’m an athlete. Let me step up, tee it up, grip it, and rip it.” Teach us about your love of golf. That takes eye-hand coordination, balance, swing speed, all these wonderful athletic moves and muscle control.
Do you think that transposes into you being better back-eye-hand coordination? Eliminating the distractions, you’re coming over the middle and there’s going to be a safety huffing and puffing. Draw that analogy. I’m always fascinated by the hobbies and the other sports that athletes are drawn to. Why do you love golf so much?
It’s a different game every single time. You can never hit the ball in the same spot at all. It’s frustrating, but at the same time, it’s amazing when you do something good. It’s that “I did it” moment, and you just need one of those shots every time you go back onto the course. You get one of those shots that keep you bringing back.
My first birdie was amazing, and then it brought me back. I didn’t do this on my own. We were doing a team scramble, but I hold the eagle putt and that baby want to come back even more. Now I got to do this myself without the team scramble. Every game is different in golf, and being able to learn and fix things on my own releases stress to get my mind away from everything. Now, you’re focused on this one thing. It’s relaxing and I found that out months ago.
It’s similar to football, though. What happens when you blow a play? What happens when you might fumble? What happens when you miss the hole, miss the block, or miss the golf shot? You shoot it in the water. You’re leading the tournament by three. You got some money on the game. All of a sudden, you get a double bogey. That’s why I dropped the analogy. It’s similar to football. When you make a mistake, you have got to get rid of that bad memory. “I should have done that. What a drag.” I like to remind everybody that it’s a 42-second shot clock. The average football play takes five seconds.
This means you got 25 to 30 seconds to think about the next play. Not just to get the play but to get your mind like, “Oh, man.” Teach us about resiliency. How do you let go of a negative experience and immediately get that out of your mind, learn the lesson, and say “It’s a brand-new play?” If you don’t, you’re going to be off the side. I got to fire up now.”
Depending on the situation for me, let’s go back to USC when I fumble. They recovered the fumble, so I got to go to the sideline. I have to let out my aggression and anger for about 10 or 20 seconds and then it’s on to the next. I got to get it out.
How do you get it out? What do you do?
I scream. I’ll probably hit my helmet on my hand or do something just to get it out. I know there’s going to be another play. I want to erase that, but I want to get it out. I just don’t want to sit there and have that pent-up aggression and anger. I get it out. I know there’s going to be the next play. I just let it fade. I know who I am. I know I’m not going to fumble every time I touch the ball.
A fumble is an anomaly. I think about the next play. I learned this from my head coach in basketball in high school. We had shirts and everything, “Next play.” The last play doesn’t matter. Think about the next play. We have a new play that we have to get done, and that’s the only one that matters. We say that every week.
Now here at Utah, next play, this play, the next, then this drive, the next drive, this quarter, then the next quarter, this half, then the next half. It’s all about the present. I like to get my aggression out for 10 to 15 seconds and then it’s on to the next. if I’m in the game and something like that happens, I’m not even thinking about it. It has to get away because the next play’s right there already. Now I’m already focused on the next play.
We need to remind every football fan that not every play is designed to square a touchdown. Nothing is more insignificant than the halftime score. Momentum is only as good as your next play. Now what? I have a unique take on running back. Who fumbles? Those are the guys that you want on your team because usually 999 times out of 1,000, the reason why you fumble is you’re working for extra yardage.
You refuse to go down. You’re fighting for every last inch, not just a yard, and somebody just starts ripping your arm, hitting your elbow, or punches it out. In my mind, and everyone who is an expert fan of football knows that when a running back fumbles, we should cheer him regardless of what it did for the moment of the game. It shows that he has more heart than the dude who just runs holding it like a bread basket who can’t maneuver left or right. Come on. I’m not blowing stone.
We would’ve to call it time out on that one. Hear me out. It’s hard to cheer that on here at Utah because we emphasize the ball so much. Every single day we emphasize ball security. Every single day, lock, load, and finish. That’s the first thing that comes out. The coach loves to mouth, “Ball security.” You’re fighting for extra yards, it’s always ball security.
In some situations, if teams aren’t doing that, maybe, but when you come to the University of Utah, that is the number one thing. In other schools, cheer more because he’s fighting for extra yards. Here, we want you to fight for extra yards. The first thing that should be on your mind is ball security. We drill it every single day at practice, every single week, every month, twelve months a year. It’s hard to say, “I was fighting for extra yards, Coach.”
That’s what I should have said and that got into so much detail. I love that you keep cheering your feet. As we wind down, what do you do to get ready on game day? What’s your routine?
I like to sleep in, first of all. Lately, I’ve been getting to waking up and getting Starbucks coffee. I’d get that and then, we’d have our team walk and we do all that. I go to my room and chill. I’d either fall asleep, take a nap, or turn a couple of games on. As soon as that’s done, once we are on our way to the stadium, I get in the locker room. I go get an IV. I’m a big cramper so I have to get an IV and get the liquids in me. That’s pretty much been my routine. I had to change my routine because getting an IV now.
I’ve learned that it’s been helping me think about the game more and what I need to accomplish throughout the game. While I’m sitting there, I think about making plays, visualizing plays, and playing hard. That’s what I’m thinking about for 10 to 15 minutes while I can’t do anything because I have an IV on my arm. That’s pretty much the whole setup.
Any music you specifically listen to? I’ve asked every athlete that because of an analogy. Michael Phelps, an Olympics swimmer, was famous for listening to rap before he even jumped in the water to break a new world record. He was listening to some heavy metal. What do you do?
I listen to rap. Whatever new came out, I’ll listen to it. If you ask me, I’m listening to Drake, 21 Savage, or Lil Baby. That’s the music I’m listening to. Also, I get loose. As soon as I go out, I’m dancing. I’m jumping around. I’m just feeling myself. I have a lot of videos that people take of me and they send them to me through Instagram of me just dancing. I like to get loose. I love the music they play.
If it’s rap, I’m loving it. I’m singing it. I’m dancing to it. Even some of the old stuff. I forgot what song was playing throughout the game, but I was into it. It was like, “Throw my hands up.” They were playing that song and I was throwing my hands up. I was just feeling it. I like to be loose. Being stiff doesn’t get you anywhere when it’s cold outside.
We know that when you’re prepared, you shall not fear. I love quotes under pressure. You don’t rise to the occasion. You fall to your level of training. That’s why we train and practice hard. Back to what we were talking about. You are so dialed in. You know the playbook. You know your capacity. You know you can catch, run, block, and go up the A gap or down or 1st down, 2nd down. It. Now you’re saying, “Let me get in tune with myself and with the atmosphere.” We wind down from a NIL perspective, how can we get ahold of you? Do you have an Instagram account? Do you have Facebook? How do we get people to follow you?
I do have Instagram and Twitter. Those are the two main platforms I’m using.
How do we get a hold of you? What are they?
My Instagram is ctb.mb and then my Twitter is ctb_mb. Both of those mean Chase The Bread, Micah Bernard, my initial. CTB is the brand. My friend in high school came up with that and I’ve just been carrying it out. We all carry this out even to this day.
For 30 seconds, what would you say as a commercial message to any young high school player to get them to come to the University of Utah? What has your experience been? Why should they come and be a Ute? We’re proud. You represent me and every single fan. You’re such a gentleman. You’re so smart, articulate, and passionate. I love watching you carry the ball. I love watching you when you’re not carrying the ball. That’s pretty sweet. I’m proud to interview you. I’m proud to call you a friend. What would you say to another young man to get them to come and be a Ute?
As we were saying earlier, if you want to be developed and you want to get better, this is a perfect place. The coaches here take time to develop you and make you better. If you think you’re all that already and you don’t need any training, I don’t think this is the place to be. Coaches here coach hard, make you better and love you while doing it.
Coming out of high school, they said, “You were a three-star.” They didn’t know what they were all talking about. To that point, you’ve developed yourself into that 4 or 5-star elite athlete and we congratulate you, my friend. You’re so good. What’s cool about you is your team mindset that whatever you need to do, you step in and ask to do it. You do it to the highest level. I congratulate you.
Thank you. I appreciate that.
Thanks for being on the program.
About Micah Bernard
BERNARD QUICK HITS
36 career games at Utah, 11 starts (10 at RB, 1 at CB).
Two career 100-yard rushing games (2021).
2022: Has played in 13 games this season with five starts, recording 95 carries for 474 yards (4 TDs), 31 catches for 306 yards (1 TD) and three kick returns for 79 yards.
Six games this season with over 70 all-purpose yards, including two 100-yard games (129 vs. USC, Pac-12 Championship; 118 vs. Southern Utah).
Season-best 12 rushes for 91 yards and a touchdown at Colorado, averaging 7.6 yards per carry.Had 11 carries for 88 yards (8.0 ypc) with one touchdown in the Pac-12 Championship vs. USC, also grabbing five catches for 41 yards.
Recorded a season-high 118 all-purpose yards against Southern Utah, recording 41 rushing, 33 receiving and a career-long 44-yard kick return.
Tied his career-high in receptions twice with five catches for 31 yards at Florida and five receptions for 40 yards against USC.Recorded 11 carries in back-to-back games at UCLA and vs. USC, going for 42 yards and 37 yards with a touchdown against USC.Scored a 19-yard receiving touchdown against Stanford along with his season-high 57 receiving yards (3 catches).
2021: Played in all 14 games with six starts (5 at RB, 1 at CB), recording 87 carries for 523 yards (6.0 ypc) and two touchdowns while leading the running backs with 26 catches for 251 yards (9.6 ypc) and two touchdowns.
• Career-high 146 rushing yards and one touchdown on 12 carries against BYU, recording a career-long 50-yard rush in the game as well.
• His 12.2 yards per carry against BYU ranked fourth all-time at Utah in a single game.
• Recorded 12 rushes for 110 yards (9.2 ypc) and an 11-yard rushing touchdown at Stanford, adding two catches for 32 yards that included a career long 28-yard reception.
• 94 all-purpose yards in Utah’s win over Arizona, including a career-best 60 receiving yards.
• Career-high 17 carries against San Diego State for 47 yards.
• Started at cornerback in Utah’s Rose Bowl appearance vs. Ohio State, recording a team-high 10 tackles while also rushing three times for 31 yards with two catches for 15 yards and a receiving touchdown.
• Caught his first career-receiving touchdown against Oregon State (14 yds).
2020: Played in all five games with 15 carries for 76 yards (5.1 ypc), adding four catches for 25 yards (6.2 ypc).
• Season-high 26 rushing yards on three carries against Oregon State, also recording a career-long 24-yard rush.
• Season-high five carries at No. 21 Colorado for 14 yards.
• Saw action in four games on special teams.
High School: Three-star recruit by Rivals and 247Sports out of Gahr HS.
• 2017 All-CIF Southern Section Division 10, Cal-Hi Junior all-state and Area Offensive Player of the Year.
• Two-time all-area, earning first-team honors in 2017.
• 100 carries for 716 yards (9 TD) as a senior in 2018, averaging 7.2 yards per carry and 71.6 yards per game. Also had 606 yards receiving (6 TD) for 1,322 all-purpose yards.
• 259 carries for 2,411 yards (27 TD), averaging 9.3 yards per carry and 200.9 yards per game with 10, 100-yard rushing games in 2017.
• SoCal Prep Legends Boys Athlete of the Week after a 224-yard rushing, three touchdown performance against St. Anthony.
• Also competed in track and basketball.
Personal: Name is pronounced muh-ky.