UNC football: Bernard’s NFL draft goal ‘go as early as possible’

acarter@newsobserver.comApril 25, 2013 

— Giovani Bernard insists he hasn’t spent much time thinking about where he’ll be selected in the NFL draft. He has tried to avoid speculation about his future, and about which team might select him. Approaching the draft, his only expectation has been a simple one.

“Go as early as possible,” Bernard said last month at North Carolina’s pro day. “I think that’s the biggest thing – obviously I want to get picked high.”

Bernard likely accomplished enough during his two seasons at UNC to make his desire a reality. He amassed more than 1,200 yards rushing in each of the past two seasons, averaged nearly 6 yards per carry and etched himself into the lore of the UNC-N.C. State rivalry with his game-winning 74-yard punt return for a touchdown last October.

Yet for all Bernard accomplished, he has faced plenty of questions, too. About his durability. About whether he can handle the considerable work load of an every-down running back in the NFL.

Injuries hindered Bernard at UNC. A knee injury kept him on the sideline for the 2010 season, and he missed two games near the start of the 2012 season after suffering discomfort in his knee.

“Things are going to happen for a reason, things did happen for a reason,” Bernard said. “And now I’m here. Obviously, I never imagined being myself this close. Even with injuries or not, I’ve come a long way.”

Bernard could be selected late in the first round, but it’s more likely he’s picked in the second or third round on Friday. Draft analysts have projected him to be one of the top running backs selected.

Bernard, though, has tried to ignore those projections. He has focused, instead, on turning the questions surrounding him into answers, and on turning his doubters into believers.

Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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