Following Saturday’s dynamic performance (304 all-purpose yards, 3 TD) in Saturday’s come-from-behind victory over N.C. State, the red-shirt sophomore leads the country in all-purpose yards average (214.0) and punt return average (20.8), while ranking third nationally in rushing yards per game (132.9).
On Tuesday, an ESPN.com NFL draft analyst listed Bernard as the top running back prospect in the 2013 draft with a mid-second round grade.
Given that level of success and national attention, it was inevitable that Bernard would have to answer questions about the NFL sooner or later, but it didn’t stop the Davie, Fla. product from laughing when asked about his future following practice on Tuesday.
“I’m going to be real with you guys – I haven’t even thought about it,” Bernard said. “People were even talking about it before the season started. For me, I’ve told myself, I’ve told everybody that I’m not going to think about it until after the season. And if things are right, if things look good for me, I may go, I may not. I don’t know what it is, but for me, I want to get my education, of course. That’s the biggest thing; that’s the first thing.
“You never know what can happen in football. You see [Marcus] Lattimore… it’s crazy things like that can happen. I want to get my education. I don’t know if that’s your answer, but it’s mine.”
Lattimore, a South Carolina standout, suffered a horrific season-ending knee injury on Saturday against Tennessee. Bernard acknowledged that Lattimore’s injury helps him appreciate “in a sense” how fleeting a career in football can be.
Bernard sat out the 2010 season due to a torn right ACL and missed two games earlier this season due to an undisclosed left knee injury.
“For the most part, I just want to be able to do what I can here and enjoy my time here while it lasts,” Bernard said. “I don’t know when it’s going to be. If God lets me, I can leave; if not, I’m still here. So whatever happens, happens.”
NFL policy requires that a player be three years removed from high school before entering the draft, so while Bernard is only a sophomore eligibility-wise, he’s currently in his third year of college and therefore will be able to forgo his final two seasons at UNC if he chooses to do so.
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