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Long Shot Tries To Make Panthers Cut

Tanner Latham
Bersin has been working out with the special teams as a kickoff and punt returner. Photo: Tanner Latham

The Carolina Panthers are running full-speed through their training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg. And we're tracking one rookie trying to make the final team roster against long shot odds. Brenton Bersin is the only player actually from Charlotte. He was a star wide receiver at Charlotte Latin High and Wofford College. And as WFAE's Tanner Latham reports, he's also got a unique tie to the team's owner. 

With his boyish face and light blonde hair shaved tightly to his head, Brenton Bersin looks even younger than his 22 years. And you can hear that youthful tone when he's talking about this whole training camp experience.

"It's really weird," he says. "I'm trying to not think about it too much, but it's cool growing up in Charlotte, playing for the Panthers, then coming back to where I just graduated college to do camp. It's awesome."

Weird. Cool. Awesome? It's also a pretty big deal. He's actually been signed to the team as an undrafted free agent. What that means is that he makes $850 a week to practice from now until the end of August. If he makes the final team roster then he gets the rest of his contract, at least $390,000.

But here's the thing: Almost half of the 91 guys out here won't make that cut. One advantage Bersin might have is that while he was here at Wofford College as a double-major in Finance and Accounting, he also spent a lot of time on the practice fields. He was a star here as a wide receiver for the Wofford Terriers. Bersin caught a 37-yard touchdown strike in Wofford's playoff loss in 2010. But the catch was important. First off, it was his ninth of the season on a team that hardly passes at all. Secondly, he tied the single-season record held by Jerry Richardson.

Yes, that Jerry Richardson, the owner of the Carolina Panthers, who Bersin kind of knows from back in Charlotte.

"My dad actually lived next to him, and I lived with my mom," he says. "I would go there every other weekend. I only met him twice."

And if Bersin makes that final cut, he'll be the first Wofford player since Jerry Richardson back in 1959 to play professionally in a regular season game. But he's got to beat out 14 other receivers all going after one of the most competitive and high-profile positions on the field. And some of those guys are virtual locks for the 6 open slots. Guys like Brandon LaFell and, of course, Steve Smith.

Still, head coach Ron Rivera has noticed Bersin. "We've seen a lot from Brenton, and he's flashed a lot," says Rivera. "Flash is to make a play. He makes plays. Make catches. He catches the ball extremely well. Runs good routes."

So, "flashing" is not something illegal. It's a compliment, and one that Bersin says he'll definitely take. It's even been a little joke he's had with Coach Rivera. "I was talking to him in the weight room, and I asked him if he meant Flash Gordon, because I'm blonde," say Bersin.

He's got another week of practice, and then Bersin might get a chance to play during one of the next few preseason games. If it's going to happen for him, now's the time. And if it doesn't, there's always that double-major in Finance and Accounting. He says his backup plan is to try another thing Charlotte's known for besides the Panthers: banking.