It wasn’t enough for Steve Bernicke to shine on both sides of the football during a run for the Napoleon Wildcats that included the program’s first playoff appearance and win.
He also shined in the classroom, earning academic honor roll mentions in not just football, but wrestling and track and field as well, leading him to an induction into the Napoleon High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I’ve always believed that putting in hard work in the classroom is among the most important principles in life,” Bernicke said. “Being well-rounded is an important trait for anyone, and I just wanted to make the most out of it.”
Bernicke, a 1988 graduate of Napoleon, was a three-time letterwinner in football, wrestling and track and field, being named to the NHS honor roll four times.
The three-sport standout earned letters in football from 1985-87, wrestling from the 1985-86 season to the 1987-88 season and track from 1986-1988.
Bernicke was also named football tri-captain in 1987 and was a recipient of the NHS Athletic Booster Scholarship.
“It was definitely an honor to be named to a leadership role with the program,” Bernicke said. “That was special to me then and remains special to me now.”
On the football field, Bernicke was named honorable mention All-Greater Lakes League in 1985, first team All-GLL recognition at punter and quarterback in 1986 and first team All-GLL on defense in 1987, leading the league in tackles with 120.
The Cats made the playoffs for the first time in program history during the 1986 season, beating Elyria Catholic, the Division III defending champions, 34-14, to also collect Napoleon’s first postseason win.
“That year was incredible for us,” Bernicke said. “We had a great team of guys who wanted to put in the work to be great, and it drove us on a great run. The community support we had behind us was something I’ll never forget.”
Bernicke received Division II all-district nods at second team all-defense in 1986 and first team all-defense in 1987, as well as honorable mention All-Ohio recognition in 1986 and second team All-Ohio at linebacker in 1987.
“It was a great feeling to be able to contribute to the team in as many ways as I could,” Bernicke said. “That drove me to want to improve every aspect of my game. That’s important for kids to play multiple sports and multiple positions, because it forces them to develop in different ways and leads to an ability to balance different responsibilities.”
Bernicke was also named the 1987 fall sports academic star and the 1987 winter sports academic star for his accolades on the wrestling mats.
In 1988, Bernicke was named to the Henry County Track Honor Roll.
Bernicke said he was surprised to learn he’d be enshrined in the Hall but is nonetheless honored by the recognition.
“This was not something I would say I was expecting,” Bernicke said. “It’s an honor I take seriously and am very touched by. It means a lot to go up along so many other great athletes from Napoleon.”
Bernicke was nominated by Mary Ann Bernicke.