Bernard was the first running back selected in this year's draft. He's the first Tar Heel to achieve that feat.
"I think he's a complete player," Cincinnati running backs coach Hue Jackson told reporters following the pick. "If anything were to happen, this guy could carry the load. I really think he can. I watched every game he played this year and worked him out. He has that skill set he can be an every-down player."
The Davie, Fla. product earned third-team All-America honors in 2012 and was selected first-team All-ACC for the second consecutive season. Bernard finished one vote shy of tying Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd for ACC Player of the Year in his sophomore season last fall.
“Gio is a tremendous talent who is a terrific person off the field,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said in a school release. “He is an outstanding playmaker who did everything he could to help our team win. Playing in our offense, he was able to showcase his skills as a versatile running back, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and catching the ball out of the backfield.”
Bernard ran for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns on 184 carries and caught 47 balls for 490 yards and five touchdowns. The 5-foot-8, 200-pounder also returned 16 punts for 263 yards and two touchdowns, including the 74-yard game-winner over N.C. State with 13 seconds to play in October.
Bernard's 198.1 all-purpose yards per game set a UNC single-season record. His 19 touchdowns were tied for second-most in single-season school history, two scores shy of Don McCauley's 21 set in 1970.
Williams became the second UNC offensive lineman selected in this year's draft, marking the first time two Tar Heel linemen were drafted since 1985. Guard Jonathan Cooper was selected seventh overall by the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday.
“I’m excited for Brennan and we’re proud of his accomplishments,” Fedora said. “He’s a good kid who has the size, strength and mobility to be a very good player at the next level.”
The 6-foot-6, 318-pound tackle, hailing from West Roxbury, Mass., earned 2012 honorable mention All-ACC honors despite missing the final four games of his senior season following shoulder surgery for a torn labrum.
“Brennan was a guy that we targeted early in the draft, in the process," Houston offensive line coach John Benton said. "He impressed us off of film. He’s a big man; he’s got long arms, two big things that you look for. He’s really a pretty good athlete from that standpoint, but I really liked his play-style. I thought he fit what we did. He’s aggressive. He’s a finisher. He’s really a pretty physical player, just as he is. He’s very, very active, which is something that we really value around here."