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Harty: Bernstine has time to redefine his legacy

[ 1 ] August 7, 2011 |

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz calls them Kodak moments.

It’s his way of describing something that leaves a lasting impression, something that makes you say, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Iowa defensive back Jordan Bernstine produced a Kodak moment for me when he was a junior at Des Moines Lincoln High School.

I can’t remember the opponent, but I still vividly recall watching the game on a cable television channel and seeing a play in which Bernstine flattened a much bigger receiver by lifting him off the ground and then slamming him to the turf on his back.

I was surprised by the ferocity of the play because it was something you don’t see much at the high school level, at least from a 175-pound defensive back in Iowa.

Bernstine made a couple more spectacular plays in that game, including a few on offense.

And from that moment, I was convinced he could play at the Big Ten level.

Bernstine went on to make first-team all-state in high school twice and was named a Parade All-American as a senior.

Iowa fans were giddy when Bernstine picked the Hawkeyes over a host of Division I schools.

But now they’re still waiting for Bernstine as a fifth-year senior to live up to the hype.

“There is a sense of urgency all the time,” Bernstine said at media day Friday. “I can’t really look at it too much.

“I just have to go out and practice and continue to get better, and hopefully, be able to help the team in some way.”

In fairness to Bernstine, his career has been derailed largely by injuries. He missed the entire 2009 Orange Bowl season after suffering a serious ankle injury in preseason practice.

He’s also had several nagging injuries, including a pulled hamstring that hindered his progress.

“You can’t feel sorry for yourself,” Bernstine said. “That’s the wrong way to go. I’m a pretty optimistic guy. So I’m always trying to look at the bright side.”

That was easier to do after Bernstine played well during Iowa’s 27-24 victory over Missouri in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28 in Tempe, Ariz.

He now hopes to use that performance as a springboard for this season.

“It helped (my confidence) a little bit just because I still had some nicks and bruises last year,” Bernstine said. “Just getting back out there and doing it felt good.”

One season doesn’t make a college career, but it could be enough time for Bernstine to redefine his legacy.

“That’s what we kind of told him that this is your last year so there is a sense of urgency to go out there and play your senior year,” said Iowa defensive backs coach Phil Parker. “I think he’s had a positive attitude and he’s trying to learn as much as he can.”

Former Iowa quarterback Brad Banks and former Hawkeye running back Shonn Greene squeezed a lot into their only season as a starter with Banks finishing runner-up for the Heisman Trophy as a senior in 2002 and with Greene winning the Doak Walker Award as a junior in 2008.

This isn’t to suggest that Bernstine will become a star, but it’s not unrealistic to think that somebody with his talent could make a significant impact this fall.

Iowa is known under Ferentz for developing players, some with far less talent than what Bernstine has.

“I think he’s going to be a big factor in what we do,” Parker said of Bernstine.

Bernstine is similar to the team for which he plays because in both cases you like the potential, but you’re just not sure if it can be fulfilled.

There is a huge void at the safety positions with Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood now competing to make an NFL roster.

The stage is set for Bernstine to finally have a breakthrough season.

He now weighs about 205 pounds and is supposedly a freak in the weight room, but still fast enough to play both cornerback and safety at the Big Ten level.

“We’re moving him around right now,” Parker said. “He’s at safety right now. But he can also go back to cornerback.”

Bernstine can do a lot of things, but can he stay healthy and provide another piece to a defensive backfield that already includes all-Big Ten senior cornerback Shaun Prater and junior big-play specialist Micah Hyde?

I was convinced Bernstine had star potential the first time I saw him play on television nearly six years ago. I’m sticking with that assessment because it’s hard to erase a Kodak moment.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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