UNC TB Bernard entering NFL draft as sophomore
North Carolina tailback Gio Bernard is eager to make his early
jump to the NFL.
The sophomore announced Friday he would enter next spring’s
draft after a big year in which he ranked among the nation’s top
rushers and punt returners to earn All-America honors.
”I didn’t want to base my projections or where I was (in mock
drafts),” Bernard said during a news conference. ”I think it was
moreso that I wanted to move on to the next step in life and
fulfill a dream.”
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound tailback led the Atlantic Coast
Conference in rushing, scoring, all-purpose yards and punt-return
average. He was a first-team all-ACC selection the past two years,
and was a third-team All-American by The Associated Press earlier
A native of Boca Raton, Fla., Bernard is draft-eligible because
he has been out of high school for three seasons. He missed the
2010 season with a knee injury and also missed almost three full
games this year with another knee injury, but said fear of another
injury wasn’t a major factor in his decision.
”It didn’t really weigh that much,” Bernard said. ”As a
football player, you take risks. Playing the game is a risk in
itself. Those things happen. You don’t really have control of those
things. … Those are things that you can’t really think about it.
You just have to go into it with an open mind and just play the
Bernard said he planned to come back to earn his degree in
Bernard entered the season with questions about how he would fit
in new coach Larry Fedora’s spread offense. But he ran for 1,228
yards and 12 touchdowns, ranked 11th nationally by averaging 122.8
yards per game and led the country by averaging 16.4 yards per punt
He scored a league-best 19 touchdowns, including two on punt
returns. That included a 74-yard return for the go-ahead touchdown
with 13 seconds left to beat North Carolina State 43-35 in October,
snapping a five-year losing streak in the rivalry.
”We’ve always prided ourselves on being balanced,” Fedora
said. ”I just knew that I was excited about the opportunity of
having a player of his caliber. At the time, I really didn’t know
how good Gio was because I hadn’t seen him on film.
”I don’t like to make decisions on guys when they’re in shorts.
But in the first two days of spring ball, we were in shorts and I
knew right then how special he was and what he was going to be in
Bernard tore his right anterior cruciate ligament on his third
day of preseason practice in 2010, but returned a year later to run
for a UNC freshman record 1,253 yards while becoming the first Tar
Heel to run for more than 1,000 yards since 1997.
Bernard leaves UNC with 2,481 yards rushing in two seasons, good
for 10th in the school record book.
”I don’t want to say it’s not about money because it’s a
business and he’s going to be making a living and that plays a part
in it,” Fedora said. ”But I think for him, it’s more about
fulfilling a dream. … I dreamed about it as a kid. I didn’t go
very far, but he has this opportunity and I’m ready to live through
him in this opportunity.”