Giovani Bernard says thoughts of the NFL aren't on his mind. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — NFL personnel types might be thinking about it. North Carolina’s coaches and fan base might be, too. But Giovani Bernard, the Tar Heels’ running back, says he isn’t thinking about whether he might leave school early for the NFL draft.
Asked earlier today about whether he is, Bernard said: “I don’t think about it at all, honestly. But it’s something that I’ll obviously think about at the end of the season. But right now, we’ve still got three more games left – we’ve still got three games that I want to prove to everybody what I can do.”
Bernard has shown plenty of what he can do so far this season. He’s averaging 214 all-purpose yards per game, which ranks third nationally. And even though he missed two games in September, his 930 rushing yards leads the ACC by a wide margin.
If Bernard decided to enter the draft, he might be an alluring prospect. It also might make sense, given his injury history. Bernard suffered a torn ACL not long after arriving at UNC. That injury forced him to miss his freshman season. A knee injury caused him to miss those two games earlier this season.
But Bernard said he wouldn’t consider the risk of injury when he does begin to contemplate his future.
“Injuries are part of the game,” he said. “It’s just a matter of how you bounce back from injuries. My ACL my freshman year, I came back the next year – I had a pretty decent year. Sprained stuff, I’ve been able to come back and play real well. I think injuries are part of the game but the thing is, people want to see how you bounce back from those injuries and I think I’ve done a good job of that so far.”
Still, despite his accomplishments, Bernard hasn’t received much national attention.
I asked Larry Fedora, the Tar Heels’ first-year coach, to try to explain that earlier today.
“I think because of when it’s happening during the season probably has something to do with it, because [Bernard’s breakout] happened a little bit later in the season,” he said. “You have something like that happen early in the season, your name pops out there immediately. So I just think that, you know, I can promise you that his name will be in all of them next year, I can assure you of that.”
Does that mean Fedora is counting on Bernard returning to UNC?
“Right now I am, yeah,” he said. “Why would I think any differently?”