The staff here at Keeping It Heel got together to look back on 2012 and celebrate the top contributors to the athletic program at the great University of North Carolina. Today we will celebrate the greatest achievements in the year that is now behind us and honor those who helped make it memorable. We’ll start with the male athlete of the year, running back Giovani Bernard. Be sure to check back later for the rest of the series where we honor the female athlete of the year, the coach of the year, game of the year, play of the year, team of the year, comeback player of the year and even the professional alumni of the year.
Gio got the vote over Kendall Marshall who had a sensational season that was tragically cut short when he broke his wrist in the post season was the only other player to receive a vote from the KIH staff. Bernard simply was the best overall player in pretty much every game he competed in this season for the Heels. Every time out Carolina fans could point to having the best player on the field as the X factor which gave him the slight edge.
It’s a shame that he didn’t get a chance to compete in post season play with the way he performed this year for the sanction ridden Tar Heels. Bernard put up terrific numbers with 1,981 total yards and 19 touchdowns dominating as a runner 1,228 yards 12 TDs 6.7 yards per carry, receiver 490 yards on 47 catches and five TDs and a punt returner with 263 yards and two TDs including one huge game winner against NC State as time expired.
Bernard became the first Tar Heel back with 1,200 yards or more in back to back seasons since Mike Voight did it in 1975 and 76 seasons. Despite missing two complete games and half of the season opener Gio was considered an outside candidate for the Heisman trophy and had he decided to stay in school would undoubtedly entered the season as one of the favorites.
As the nations top RB Bernard did more than just rack up yards and TDs in bunches for the Tar Heels, he restored glory to the position at Tailback U. Gio made the transition to new head coach Larry Fedoras system easier for quarterback Bryn Renner and the rest of the offense because opposing defenses had to pay so much attention to the ground game and Gio’s breakaway ability.
Bernard chose to take his talents to the pro’s and put his name in the NFL Draft with little to prove on the college level and without a doubt be the first RB taken in the draft. Aside from how great of a season Gio had it’s great to see a football player capture the male athlete of the year award at a basketball dominate school. With all the conference realignment mess centered around football income the ACC needs Carolina to step up on the gridiron and having talents like Giovani Bernard come through Chapel Hill is a step in the right direction.