Bernard Receives ACC's Piccolo Award

GREENSBORO, N.C. - North Carolina redshirt freshman tailback Giovani Bernard (Davie, Fla.), who rebounded from a severe knee injury to become the nation's leading freshmen rusher, has been named the recipient of the 2011 Brian Piccolo Award, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford announced Friday.

he Piccolo Award has been given annually since 1972 in memory of the late Brian Piccolo to the "most courageous" football player in the ACC. Piccolo was the ACC Athlete of the Year in 1965 and played for the Chicago Bears before his career was cut short when he was stricken with cancer. His courageous fight against that disease was an inspiration to the Bears and the entire football community.

Bernard suffered a severe knee injury, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament on the third day of pre-season practice prior to the start of the 2010 football season which forced him to miss all of last year. After a year of rehabilitation, Bernard returned to lead North Carolina in rushing this year with 1,222 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. He ranks 3rd in the ACC in rushing and has more rushing yards than any other freshman nationally. With still one game remaining in his season, his yardage total is the 3rd-best by an ACC freshman.

Earlier this year, he became the first Tar Heel football player since 1984 to record five consecutive games with 100 or more yards in rushing and has topped the 100-yard mark seven times this year. He was named ACC Rookie of the Week three times this year: on October 3 for rushing for 146 yards and a TD against East Carolina; on Oct. 31 for rushing for 154 yards and 2 TDs against Wake Forest; and this past week for rushing for 165 yards and a touchdown in UNC's 37-21 win over Duke.

Coincidentally, Bernard played his prep football at the same high school as Piccolo. A running back who led the nation in rushing in 1965 with 1,044 yards, Piccolo played at Central Catholic High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Central Catholic was the predecessor for St. Thomas Aquinas High School, which is where Bernard played.

"Giovani is a special person and is a deserving recipient of this prestigious award," said North Carolina head coach Everett Withers. " I know he was disappointed he could not play last year after tearing ligaments in his knee on the third day of practice. However, he was relentless with his rehabilitation, never complained and came back stronger than ever. That's the type of person he is. He came back in 2011 and had an incredible season for us."

Bernard is the fifth North Carolina student-athlete to be honored with the Picccolo Award, joining former teammate Robert Quinn, who received the award in 2008, Danny Burmeister (1985), Jim Webster (1971) and Paul Miller (1970), as past Tar Heel honorees.

Previous Winners of the ACC Brian Piccolo Award
1970 Paul Miller, QB, North Carolina
1971 Jim Webster, LB, North Carolina
1972 Mark Johnson, QB, Duke
1973 Al Neville, QB, Maryland
1974 David Visaggio, DG, Maryland
1975 Scott Gardner, QB, Virginia
1976 Jeff Green, DE, Duke
1977 Ralph Stringer, DB, NC State
1978 Rex Varn, DB, Clemson
1979 not available
1980 Jack Cain, DB, Clemson
1981 Aaron Stewart, DB, Duke
1982 Kenny Duckett, WR, Wake Forest
1983 John Piedmonte, OLB,Wake Forest
1984 J.D. Maarleveld, T, Maryland
1985 Danny Burmeister, DB, N. Carolina
1986 Ray Williams, WR, Clemson
1987 no recipient
1988 Jerry Mays, TB, Georgia Tech
1989 Michael Anderson, RB, Maryland
1990 Marc Mays, WR, Duke
1991 Scott Adell, T, NC State
1992 Dan Footman, DE, Florida State, Randy Cuthbert, TB, Duke
1993 Scott Youmans, DL, Duke
1994 Chris Harrison, T, Virginia
1995 Warren Forney, DT, Clemson
1996 John Lewis, RB, Wake Forest
1997 Sam Cowart, LB, Florida State
1998 Anthony Poindexter, DB, Virginia, Corey Simon, DT, Florida State
1999 Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State
2000 Ed Wilder, FB, Georgia Tech
2001 Matt Crawford, T, Maryland
2002 Anquan Boldin, WR, Florida State
2003 Kevin Bailey, OL, Virginia
2004 Frank Gore, RB, Miami
2005 Ryan Best, S, Virginia
2006 Glenn Sharpe, Miami
2007 Matt Robinson, DE, Wake Forest
2008 Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
2009 Toney Baker, RB, NC State
2010 Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College, Nate Irving, LB, NC State

Inside Carolina Top Stories