ARLINGTON, Tex. (ABC4 Sports) – Francis Bernard has played in two Pac-12 Championship Games with Utah, 21 NFL games with the Dallas Cowboys, but to play for the XFL title this Saturday is one of the biggest highlights of his career.

“I’d say it’s right there at the top,” Bernard said. “Having played in championship games and in the Pac-12 Championship twice, this is just the cherry on top for making it here. It’s everything every pro football player wants to play for.”

Bernard, who was a first team All-Pac-12 linebacker in 2019, is the D.C. Defenders’ leading tackler this year with 42.5 with six tackles for loss. He is a big reason why the Defenders are 10-1 going into the XFL Championship Game against the Arlington Renegades.

Bernard is hoping his play this season will earn him an opportunity to make it back to the NFL.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Going into this thing, that’s been on my mind to make it back. Hopefully from the play that I’ve had will give me another shot at playing in the NFL.”

The XFL does have talented players, and some new rules like a 3-point conversion. Holding its championship game on ABC should help the league’s exposure.

“There is so much uniqueness to the league,” Bernard said. “That and being on ABC, one of the biggest networks, a lot of people will watch, and a lot of people will realize that this league is actually legit.”

Bernard began his college career at BYU before transferring to Utah. And the Utah-BYU rivalry will be renewed on Saturday, as Bernard will play against his old roommate at BYU in defensive lineman Tomasi Laulile.

“Red and blue teams playing against each other again, that’s crazy!” Bernard said. “When we can, we’ll get together for dinner and stuff. We get together and talk all the time. All my group of friends, whether it’s Sione Takitaki, Fred Warner, Havey Langi, Tomas Laulile, Cody Barton, Chase Hansen, Devin Lloyd, the guys that I was super close with, we’ve all had a shot to play in the NFL. Some of us are still playing in the NFL.”

So how long will the 28-year-old Herriman High School graduate keep pursuing his NFL dream?

“I’m going to play as long as I can, until someone stops knocking on the door,” Bernard said. “Or until I literally stop kicking physically the doors down to give me opportunities.”

You can watch Bernard and the Defenders take on Arlington Saturday at 6:00 p.m. on ABC4.