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Big brother is watching


Before Giovani Bernard, he of the emerging Bennie and The Jet backfield, there was Yvenson Bernard. Before Yvenson tried out for two NFL teams, played for four teams in the CFL, got married, and the couple came up with a Run GIO T-shirt based on old school Run-DMC, there were his 3,862 yards that made him Oregon State's second all-time rusher and sixth in the even older-school Pac-10.

"It's creepy," Yvenson Bernard admitted this week from Boca Raton, Fla., as the new running backs coach at West Boca Raton High School evaluated his kid brother.

He's getting texts and emails from all about saying it's scary watching Gio because they say it's like seeing a faster Yvenson.

"The way he runs his zone reading, the way he runs that one play where he cuts back, the way he presses the hole," Yvenson said. "The way he runs the stretch play and knows when to cut it up north and south. We're two completely different guys, but it's nice to see a little of me in him and a little of him in me."

Not a mere coincidence. Yvenson, 5-9, 204 pounds, turns 29 in two weeks so he's eight years older than Gio, 5-9 208 pounds, and Gio will say he copied a lot of what his big brother did growing up. But there's something big brother couldn't copy.

"The one thing my brother had that I didn't was that top-end speed," Yvenson said. "He just finds that second gear come game time. Coming out of the combine he had a 4.5 40 and a lot of people had better times. For some reason he's able to extend that play and it's cool to be able to see him do that."

If you think Bengaldom is head over heels with the start to what very well could be a national rookie of the year season, check out Yvenson Bernard. One of the reasons he retired a year and a half ago is so he could see his brother play at North Carolina and then, as it turned out, help him through the draft process.

"My Sundays are a little different now," Yvenson said. "I had a shot and now to see my brother playing on Sunday afternoon in the NFL is unreal and in the Monday Night game, it's great to see his dream playing out."

And on Friday, Gio was voted by fans as the Pepsi Next Rookie of the Week. Bernard leads all rookie running backs with 110 yards on 22 carries. He's the only rookie running back with two touchdowns. He's tied with Arizona's Andre Ellington for most catches by a rookie running back with six and trails Ellington by just seven for most receiving yards with 84.

In fact, Yvenson's favorite play of his came at the end of Giovani Bernard's longest catch of the season. It happened last week when he took a pass in the flat and wheeled untouched for 31 yards before he put his shoulder down on the sideline and bopped himself and Packers 5-10, 207-pound safety Chris Banjo out of bounds.

That caught the eye of Yvenson Bernard, who didn't make it to the camps of the Rams and Seahawks in the 2008 preseason.

"I thought that was pretty sweet because some people look at my brother's game as finesse," Yvenson said. "That he's not physical. In actuality, he's a very physical guy. To see him go out of bounds and smack him like that, that shows a lot about him. He plays for the love of the game. You see guys in the NFL running out of bounds. No contact. They call that the business move and I understand. But for my brother, that's pretty cool. He just wanted to make a statement like he's here to play."

Expect more of the same. This is a family of grinders, led by their father, 53-year-old widower Yven. After losing everything but his two sons after his wife died when Giovani was seven, the patriarch worked his way back as his sons were climbing through the ranks of college football. He's back in the game as the owner of Regal Cleaners in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area and it doesn't much matter that Giovani has purchased a new home and given him a floor of his own.

"It my brother's place, but he made sure my dad has his own everything," Yvenson said. "Dad's living well."

But Yvenson Bernard knows it's going to be difficult to yank his father out of work for a Sunday game in Cincinnati. The Bengals picked Gio so early in the draft, Yven almost missed the moment because he worked right up until the second round started that night.

"This guy literally wakes up at 5 in the morning and he doesn't come home until 7:30, 8," Yvenson said. "He loves the dry cleaners. You can see him trying to prove to us that he still has it and he's the man at what he does."

Right now his son is the man in Bengaldom and his big brother can't get enough. Some Run Gio shirts got great feedback when Yvenson and his wife came to the Steelers game and he thinks they may take off like his kid brother.

He also likes the Bennie and The Jet nickname for the one-two punch of Gio and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He knows the tune from the Elton John song of the '70s, "Bennie and the Jets," and wonders if they might play it in pregame or even after touchdowns at Paul Brown Stadium.

"My Sundays are different, that's for sure," said Yvenson Bernard, who didn't have the speed but has been there for his brother's long haul.

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