Giovani Bernard is the epitome of class.
Bernard, the 2nd-round selection of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2013 NFL Draft, was released Wednesday. Unlike a couple of ex-teammates who were also released within the past couple of months, Bernard had nothing but good things to say about his home for the past eight seasons.
According to reports, the Bengals had asked Bernard to take a pay cut in order to stay with the team. When the two sides were unable to arrive at a compromise, Bernard asked for his release and the team obliged.
Bernard took to Twitter on Friday night to express his appreciation.
“Grateful for it all! The ups, the downs and everything in between. I have nothing but love for this city and all the relationships it has brought into my life. Cincinnati has been a place that has given countless blessings to my family and I over the past 8 years and for that I am forever grateful.”
Bernard quickly established himself as the quintessential role player in Cincinnati, and finished his Bengals career with 3,697 rushing on 921 carries with 22 touchdowns in 115 games.
He probably made his greatest impact with the team as a receiver out of the backfield. Bernard leaves as the Bengals’ all-time leader in receptions with 342, and trailed only James Brooks in yardage with 2,867.
Bernard probably made his biggest contribution in 2020 when he started 10 games in place of the injured Joe Mixon. Running behind a makeshift offensive line, Bernard appeared in all 16 games and finished with 416 yards rushing on 124 carries (an average of only 3.4 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. But he also added 47 receptions for 355 yards and three scores.
But it is Bernard’s locker room presence and leadership that the Bengals will miss the most. Bernard was Cincinnati’s 2019 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which is given to an active player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.
Bernard launched the Bernard Family Foundation in 2014, and its mission is “to give underprivileged children a platform for success by providing opportunities for education, athletics and lessons in core values that will help support them throughout their lives.”
The Run Gio Foundation focuses on helping children develop an awareness of the world around them, and an understanding of their place in that world. Through education, children gain the knowledge necessary to find gainful employment and develop the attitudes needed to become positive contributors to society.
In addition to his off-the-field contributions, Bernard was a leader in the Bengals locker room, and was selected as one of the team captains in 2020 for the third year in a row.
“To every person that rocked that #25 jersey whether on game day or just for an evening stroll down by the Banks, you’ve made a Haitian kid from South Florida grateful for it all. To friends that became family at Paul Brown Stadium, whether still there or not, I’m thankful for each and every one of you. Thank you for guiding me the right way. To the Brown family that gave me an opportunity and a platform to share my story, I’m grateful. And to #WhoDey Nation, from embracing the min van to watching the stache grow to unreasonable length, I’m forever grateful for you all. And most importantly thank you to the man above for your undeserving grace on my life.
Cheers to you Cincy!”