North Carolina's Giovani Bernard, the top-rated running back by NFLDraftScout.com eligible for April's draft, is forgoing his final two years of eligibility and entering the 2013 NFL Draft. The 5-foot-10, 205-pounder is projected as a second-round selection by NFLDraftScout.com and is the No. 45 rated prospect overall.
After suffering torn ligaments in his knee before his freshman season, Bernard came back strong and was first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference the past two seasons.
Bernard led the nation in punt returns in 2012, averaging 16.4 yards. Despite missing two games because of a knee problem, he finished the season leading the ACC in rushing (1,228 yards on 184 carries), scoring (19 touchdowns) and all-purpose yards. He also was fourth nationally with 198.1 all-purpose yards per game, fifth in points per game (11.4) and 11th in rushing yards per game (122.8).
In 2011, Bernard set a school freshman record with 1,253 rushing yards.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my three years in Chapel Hill, and coming to UNC was one of the best decisions I've ever made," Bernard said. "I feel like the best decision for my future is to enter the NFL Draft this year."
Bernard's main competition as the first running back selected are Clemson's Andre Ellington, Wisconsin's Montee Ball and underclassmen Eddie Lacy (Alabama) and Joseph Randle (Oklahoma State) should they decide to leave school early.
"Gio is a special player and an even better person," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. "He flourished in our offense and was an outstanding leader for our program.
"After the season was over, we helped him gather as much information as possible so he and his family could make the best decision for his future. We support his decision and wish him nothing but success as he takes the next step in his football career."