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Bernard wins ACC's Brian Piccolo Award

Lots of news on a Friday. Via the ACC:

North Carolina redshirt freshman tailback Giovani Bernard (Davie, Fla.), who rebounded from a severe knee injury to become the nation’s leading freshmen rusher, has been named the recipient of the 2011 Brian Piccolo Award, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford announced Friday.

The Piccolo Award has been given annually since 1972 in memory of the late Brian Piccolo to the "most courageous" football player in the ACC. Piccolo was the ACC Athlete of the Year in 1965 and played for the Chicago Bears before his career was cut short when he was stricken with cancer. His courageous fight against that disease was an inspiration to the Bears and the entire football community.

Bernard suffered a severe knee injury, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament on the third day of pre-season practice prior to the start of the 2010 football season which forced him to miss all of last year. After a year of rehabilitation, Bernard returned to lead North Carolina in rushing this year with 1,222 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. He ranks 3rd in the ACC in rushing and has more rushing yards than any other freshman nationally. With still one game remaining in his season, his yardage total is the 3rd-best by an ACC freshman.

Coincidentally, Bernard played his high school ball at the same school as Piccolo.

As good as Bernard has been this season, it is easy to forget the severity of the knee injury which derailed him last season. Bernard became the first Tar Heel to rush for 1,000 yards in nearly 15 years and beat Famous Amos Lawrence's UNC freshman record for rushing yardage.

Plus, as THF tweeted, it took courage to run for 1,200 yards with UNC's offensive line this season...