Andrew Bernard signing

Randolph Central School senior Andrew Bernard signed a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday to play college football at Mercyhurst University. Front row (from left): father Bill Bernard, Andrew Bernard and mother Kathy Bernard. Back row: Randolph football coach Brent Brown, athletic director Robin Maycock and football assistant coach Nate Armella.

RANDOLPH — The wide frame and bulldozing power that created so much space for Randolph Cardinal runners over the last four years is coming to the college ranks.

Randolph senior Andrew Bernard made his plans official on Wednesday, signing a National Letter of Intent to play football at Mercyhurst University, surrounded by his parents and coaches. At the Division II school in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, Bernard will play offensive line, joining a group of 22 players signing an NLI with the university on Wednesday, including Maple Grove quarterback Carson Crist, who plans to play punter in college.

“It means a lot because all these people that were here today just have been here throughout the whole process and helped me through everything,” Bernard said on Wednesday.

Among those who watched Bernard sign his letter were football coaches Brent Brown and Nate Armella and athletic director Robin Maycock, along with basketball assistant Ike Morrison, who himself played football at Mercyhurst from 1999-2002.

Bernard said Mercyhurst offered him a scholarship and he announced his plans to attend the school in January. A trip to Erie, Pa., to meet the Lakers was the only official college visit he needed in order to decide.

“I just loved the coaches there,” he said. “It's the most comfortable I felt at a college campus when I went on my official visit and that's just where I wanted to go.”

This year, Bernard won both his league (Section 6 Class C South) and Big 30 Lineman of the Year awards. He was also a Trench Trophy hall of fame enshrinee and award finalist as one of Western New York’s top linemen this season.

Bernard first played football in the fourth grade and played lineman "all the way through," he said. He grew into a dominant, 6-foot-3, 280-pound tackle and four-year varsity starter. While the so-called “skilled positions” usually get more headlines and award recognition, Bernard enjoyed line play for a simple reason.

“Just being able to hit someone without getting in trouble,” he said.

At Mercyhurst, he’ll play for coach Marty Schaetzle, who has led the Lakers since 2002. Freshmen report in August for camp.

“Everything,” Bernard said of what he’ll work on before camp. “I've got to get stronger, faster, more skilled. So it's all work from here.”

Bernard continued a tradition of great linemen at Randolph, including former teammates Jeff Andrews and Wesley Senn, who have played at Alfred State and Alfred University, respectively. Randolph’s coaches trusted him so much the Cardinals ran behind his side of the line 80 percent of the time last season. He also anchored the Randolph defense with 56 tackles and six sacks.

“So we're proud of Andrew,” Brown said. “It certainly was nice having him here. Obviously he was tremendous for us.”

What made Bernard so effective? Not just his size, Brown noted.

“Well, his size certainly, but he was athletic,” he said. “You get a lot of big kids that can't move, but Andrew could move and he's smart. So all those things, you put them all together and there you are.”

He also set an example for all of his teammates with great leadership for all four years, Brown said.

“He started for us when he was in ninth grade, so every year he became more and more obviously as he got older,” Brown said. “They looked up to him because of all the things he did, big weight room kid, he did the stuff. He did everything right all the way through to be as good as he could be. So the other kids respected that and it's easy. When someone's willing to walk the walk, it's easy to be a leader.”

(Salamanca Press sports editor Sam Wilson may be contacted at swilson@oleantimesherald.com)