Utah Utes running back Micah Bernard once ‘fell out of love’ with football but is itching to play this season

Micah Bernard is entering his final season with the Utes with a renewed love of the game.

(Courtesy of Utah Athletics) Senior running back Micah Bernard performs a drill during the first day of Utah Utes spring football practices on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.

Utah running back Micah Bernard couldn’t play football for months. It was announced last September he suffered a season-ending injury. Reportedly, the injury happened off the field.

It wasn’t until the Las Vegas Bowl three months later that Bernard put back on his pads and helmet and tried his best to help his team win. But in between were some of the most difficult moments of Bernard’s career.

“I was telling everybody during that time,” Bernard said this week. “Before, I was falling out of love with football. There was so much going on in my life and stuff like that.”

What Bernard realized during his time off was that football was basically his entire life and he loved it too much to quit. Even though he had dealt with several nagging injuries that were starting to wear on his body, he started to miss it. He’d see his teammates on the field and yearn for what they had.

“Seeing everybody else enjoy it and have fun and be on the field, catch the ball, run the ball, hit something,” Bernard said. “I’m just sitting there, like, ‘Hey, I want to hit something, too. I want to run the ball. I want to get in the box.’”

Bernard is entering his final year at running back for the Utes. His best season was 2022, when he amassed 533 rushing yards (four touchdowns) and 314 receiving yards (one TD).

Running backs coach Quinton Ganther said Bernard is the type of person who generally keeps to himself. But he did learn that one of his most veteran running backs at one point was “getting close to walking away from football.”

Ganther tries to relate to players who are thinking about leaving the game, he said, by telling them that even as an NFL player he almost quit himself.

“The way I encourage them [by saying], ‘You have to understand that if you walk away from this game, this is a young man’s game; you’ll never be able to play it again,” Ganther said. “So don’t walk away until somebody tells you you can’t play anymore.”

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said that while there is certainly no joy in what Bernard went through while he sat out last year, he was “fired up” for the bowl game. When it comes to this season, though, Ludwig was clear about Bernard’s mentality.

“Micah Bernard’s all in,” Ludwig said.

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