Redshirt senior Ashland University football linebacker and special teams captain Zach Bernhard has put together a resume that includes volunteering at the Ashland hospital's Emergency Department, trips to the Navajo Indiana Reservation in Arizona, an internship at Stryker Three Rivers Orthopaedic & Spine Products, among other things.
"There truly is that student-athlete vibe that you get when you come to a school like Ashland," said Bernhard, president of Ashland's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. "Even though we're a perennial top 25 football team in Division II, there's still plenty of emphasis on academics."
Bernhard, a 2012 graduate of Ashland High School, earned his bachelor's degree in 2016 at AU in biochemistry with a grade-point average of 3.61.
"I know what kind of family he comes from," head football coach Lee Owens said. "I know his value system. I understand what a good student he is and how important academics are to him. And I understand what he's been able to do off the field and how he's impacted our campus and community as a football player."
Currently working toward his Masters in Business Administration, Bernhard recently presented research at a Food & Nutrition Conference in Boston, he was a participant in the 2nd & 7 Foundation's elementary school reading program this year and he hosted the first-annual Ashland ASHPY Awards ceremony in May.
On July 14, Bernhard was one of 165 college football players in the country nominated for a spot on the 2016 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Allstate Good Works Team, which honors football student-athletes for exemplary community service.
"It was all of this four or five years of hard work all paying off," Bernhard said, "Being a special teams guy and a second-teamer, you're not one of those all-league guys making 100 tackles a year. But being a well-rounded guy, it was nice to see all of that pay off."
On Sept 15, Bernhard was one of 24 players named to this year's Allstate Good Works Team.
"It's about time he starts getting recognized for this kind of stuff," said linebacker Brandon Gency, senior captain of the Ashland football team's defense. "He's been leading all of these organizations on campus, he's been tutoring guys that he doesn't have any relation with, and he helps the guys on the team academically."
"I don't know if there is a greater honor for our team and university than to be represented on that particular Allstate Good Works Team," Owens said. "It's unbelievable for our community, college and football team because it's not just about winning. It's about doing everything right. I don't think there's anybody more deserving of that award than Zach."
To go along with Bernhard's off-the-field endeavors, he's recorded 17 tackles for the Eagles in 2016. Three of those tackles were for loss of yards, one of which was a sack.
"You don't have to be on the field every down to be a leader," Owens said. "There are a lot of different roles that you can take as a leader. Zach found ways to lead. It wasn't always by his play on the field. I think that's unique that a player has the mental toughness and discipline to do that."
Bernhard serves as one of the team's 15 accountability team captains, requiring him to lead and mentor a group of six underclassmen on the football team.
"He really is the ideal Ashland Eagle football player," Gency said, "in terms of his ability to play the game, off the field how he respects his players, coaches, teammates and other people that he just sees walking to class. He's just an all-around great guy, and you'll be lucky and fortunate if he's in your life."
Follow this link to vote for Zach to become the captain of the 2016 Allstate Good Works Team: VOTE FOR ZACH BERNHARD.