SPARTANBURG, S.C. – When the South Carolina sun beats down on Panthers players during training camp, nothing could be more welcomed than a sliver of shade, a morsel of moisture, or heck, even a bit of time with a baseball cap to cool them a degree or two.
For wide receiver Brenton Bersin, it's all old hat.
"Yesterday was surprisingly hot, especially for a morning practice," Bersin said. "But I'm used to it. I've been in Spartanburg for like nine years now.
"My sophomore year, 2009, it was like 115 heat index every day."
At the age of 26, Bersin seems an unlikely candidate for back-in-my-day banter, but he did play at Wofford College for four years.
But even beyond that, consider this for a minute: Bersin has been with the Panthers longer than any of the team's other wide receivers – twice as long, in fact.
"I know Ted (Ginn) is the oldest, but I've probably been here the longest," Bersin said, "And I know the offense the best."
Dubbed "The Professor" by quarterback Cam Newton, Bersin knows some of the tenured faculty around campus and knows his way around the grease board in the wide receiver room. He spent the 2012 offseason with the Panthers and has been around consistently since the 2013 offseason – save the day he was waived at the end of preseason in both '13 and '15, only to be signed to the practice squad almost immediately.
Bersin spent the entire 2013 season on the practice squad, then the entire 2014 season on the active roster when the position group was going through wholesale rebuilding. Last year he found himself back on the practice squad – but not for long.
The Panthers trusted him most to perform Jerricho Cotchery's role when Cotchery was sidelined two games by an ankle injury early last season, and after Cotchery returned, the coaches chose to keep Bersin on the active roster.
The Panthers didn't re-sign Cotchery this offseason.
"I got to start both of those games, and I showed I can do what the 'F' (receiver) has got to do in the game, what Cotch did. Hopefully I can take that into the season," Bersin said. "Last year I got cut right after camp, and by Week 3, I was starting. That could happen this year. You've just got to be ready."
Bersin knows job security is far from guaranteed by his ability to do the dirty work and make the tough catches in traffic like Cotchery did. The main reason nothing is assured is the influx of talent at wide receiver this season, from the return of Kelvin Benjamin and Stephen Hill from knee injuries to development of 2015 practice squader Damiere Byrd to the addition of rookies like Keyarris Garrett and veterans like LaRon Byrd.
"It's a good group. We have a lot of competition. It's bringing out the best in everyone," Bersin said. "I love playing football, and I love Charlotte and love the Panthers. It's a hard business to stay in, and I've been up and down every year. You have to keep your confidence level up, whether you're on the practice squad or whatever. Next week you could be right back up playing."