The most electric tailback to suit up in Carolina blue in a decade officially begins his NFL career as Giovani Bernard is selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the second pick of the second round.
Bernard was a fan favorite from the moment he set foot on the Chapel Hill campus. He probably would have played as a true freshman — 2009 starters Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston were injured benched because of a scandal rspectively — but he tore his ACL on the third day of fall practice and was redshirted. When he did take the field the following year, he immediately started putting up numbers to match those of Carolina alums Amos Lawrence, Natrone Means, Kelvin Bryant and others. He became the first Tar Heel to rush for 100 yards in five straight games since Ethan Horton, and the first to top 1,000 on the season since Jonathan Linton. All this despite a fracture in his hand that kept him in a cast for the preseason. Oh, and he's also small enough you can't see him behind the line. His bounce back from the knee injury earned him the ACC's Brian Piccolo award, a Freshman All-America honor, and a first team All-ACC spot.
All of which pales to what he did his sophomore season. Bernard opened with 203 all-purpose yards against ECU. He also tweaked his knee, and sat out the next two games as a precaution. He came back to a spectacular October — 262 yards rushing against Virginia Tech, including a 62-yard TD on a fourth-and-inches play; 177 yards on the ground against Miami; 209 total yards against Duke; and finally, 304 all-purpose yards against N.C. State, capped off by one of the great plays in North Carolina football history:
Bernard would finish the season with 1,270 yards (most in the ACC) in 10 games for his second 1,000 yard rushing season. He was one vote shy of being named ACC Player of the Year, having to settle for All-ACC and AP All-American honors. Given another year he could completely rewrite the North Carolina record books and bask in Heisman buzz, but you can't fault him for taking his skills to the NFL.
One thing that a lot of people are overlooking is Bernard's blocking skills. His height and running style mask it, but he was vital in keeping Bryn Renner upright on passing plays. He's an absolute steal in the second round, and I'd look fir him to have a Willie Parker-like career over the next decade or so.