When the Bengals returned to town on Monday to begin off-season workouts, one of the first players that I wanted to talk to was running back Giovani Bernard.
Not about his outstanding rookie year.
Not about new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
And not about his hopes and expectations for the upcoming season.
The number one topic was this hilarious drawing he made as a 7-year-old that was recently posted on Instagram by the NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala.
“They came over to my home in South Florida,” said Bernard. “I haven’t even seen that thing in years, but they were able to find it in a locked-up place.
“My family saved it and tried to embarrass me, but it was cool to see it.”
Kinkhabwala and an NFL Network crew recently accompanied Bernard on a trip to Haiti where Gio’s family is helping to build a school in honor of his late mother Josette.
Despite finishing with 1,209 combined rushing/receiving yards and scoring eight touchdowns as a rookie, Giovani is still anonymous in his parents’ homeland.
“They don’t know anything about American football there,” said Bernard. “If I was a soccer player they would probably know me, but since I’m an American football player they don’t. It was good to go somewhere where nobody really knows you and just experience it. It was good to give back to the community and the school.”
The trip was part of a feature story on Bernard’s inspiring journey to the NFL. It you haven’t watched it already, here’s the link.
Now that Gio is back in Cincinnati to begin his second NFL season, there is strong speculation that he will be the featured running back under Hue Jackson. Last year, Bernard finished with 226 “touches” (170 carries and 56 receptions) while BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 224.
“I’m not going to expect more touches or less,” said Bernard. “For me, it’s whatever the situation dictates and Hue will decide. You just go from there. I’m real close to BenJarvus and I really admire what he does on the field. We’re both good players and can be on the field at any time, so it’s Hue’s call.”
That’s a unselfish attitude. It didn’t make his list as a 7-year-old, but it’s another thing that makes Giovani Bernard special.
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