Hundreds of young collegians were either drafted or signed as rookie free agents in recent days and will begin their professional careers in the weeks ahead.
Overshadowed by the bright lights and fanfare of the nationally-televised Draft last week was the retirement announcement of a 10-year NFL veteran. This new alumnus enjoyed the type of NFL career we would hope many in this year’s class of draftees would experience.
Giovani Bernard, who was the first running back drafted in the second round by the Bengals in 2013, made his retirement announcement on social media.
“Ten years ago, I came into the league grateful,“ Bernard wrote, “grateful for what God has done to get me to that moment and to celebrate all the obstacles that were overcome. And now fast forward 10 years, I leave humbled. Humbled by the experiences, relationships and memories that have shaped me during this time.”
The son of Haitian immigrant parents, Bernard grew up in the Boca Raton (FL) area and was a highly-recruited high school running back who eventually enrolled at the University of North Carolina (UNC). He was named first-team All-ACC two seasons (2011-12) and was selected as the ACC Offensive Player of the Year in 2012. When the Bengals selected him, he became the first UNC running back in 20 years to be drafted in either of the first two rounds.
Bernard last week thanked many of the individuals who helped shape his NFL career, which included eight years in Cincinnati (2013-20) and two injury-hampered seasons in Tampa Bay (2021-22). A multi-talented back, Bernard finished his career with 3,783 rushing yards, 2,989 receiving yards, and 36 career touchdowns. Not many of us had the opportunity to decide for ourselves when we should move out of the league so Bernard’s announcement was especially noteworthy.
“I’ve had the privilege of crossing paths with exceptional men and women,” the 31-year-old Bernard wrote in his retirement remarks, “including my brothers on the field, coaches who’ve taught me so much, and front office/staff who worked behind the scenes to make it all seamless. I offer my deepest thanks to all of you.”
We at NFL Alumni, in turn, thank Giovani Bernard for the way he represented himself, his teams and the league on and off-the-field during this last decade. We welcome him into our alumni ranks and offer him and his family any assistance we can during his transition into the next stage of his life.