Former Bengal Giovani Bernard Sends Another Thank You Note As He Ends Classy 10-Year Career

In this Aug. 17, 2013, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard runs against the Tennessee Titans during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Tennessee Titans in Cincinnati.

Ten years to virtually the moment former running back Giovani Bernard entered the NFL as a second-round draft pick, he went out as classy as he came in when one of the most productive Bengals ever announced his retirement before Friday's second round.

Then he went to the beach with wife Chloe and 16-month-old son Julian, enjoying the fruits of staying home in his native South Florida instead of getting ready for another round of OTAs.

"To be able to get out of it healthy, to get out of it with my mind sharp, my body feels good and I chugged it out to (year) ten," Bernard said. "I'm excited to get to the next phase."

The next phase is pretty much an expansion of the old as he looks to build on his real estate holdings.

"One hundred percent," said Bernard, when he was asked if he was shooting for any symmetry with the draft day of retirement. "People talk about it as a life-changing experience. But for me it was a moment of gratitude.

"One, I had no idea what to expect. To go as high as I did, I'm not going to say it was a shock, but it was like, 'Wow, they think really highly of me.' It's more about gratitude than the whole change of life thing. I'm sure grateful to those people that gave me those opportunities and I met a lot of really, really damn good people."

When Bernard got back from visiting the Bengals a few weeks before the draft, he sent club president Mike Brown, head coach Marvin Lewis and running back coach Hue Jackson thank you notes. The son of Haitian immigrants whose mother died when he was seven, Bernard wasn't your typical prospect. He had overcome poverty and virtual homelessness to star at St. Thomas Aquinas High School near his hometown of Boca Raton, Fla., before winning the Brian Piccolo Award as the ACC's most courageous player when he rebounded from a torn ACL while playing at North Carolina.

He offered another thank you note ten years later.

See the best photos of 2013 Bengals draft pick Giovani Bernard as he retires from the NFL.

"I'd probably write it to the whole Brown family," Bernard said. "Every time I crossed paths with them in the hallway or saw them, I never felt like I was just a player. I know it sounds crazy. People say it's a business and all that, but I never felt like I wasn't part of that family. For them to show that kind of love to a player they drafted and for them to keep me as long as they did, I've got the utmost respect for that family. They changed my life by giving me this opportunity. I'm grateful for that entire family up there and how they run their business."

The 5-9, 205-pound Bernard, 31, had some electrifying plays racking up the 10th most scrimmage yards in Bengals history in eight seasons in Cincinnati before he finished his career the final two years in Tampa Bay. He broke James Brooks' club record for most career catches by a running back and when Joe Mixon caught 60 balls last season it broke Bernard's single-season record for catches by a back.

But the image of him fending off blitzing Ravens linebackers in the raucous fourth quarter Andy Dalton found A.J. Green for two touchdowns in a 2015 come-from-behind win in Baltimore is his defining image as a player. Like his father lost and regained his dry cleaning business, Bernard clawed to win.

"I wasn't that vocal person, but every time I got put in that vocal moment I would hope the guys would listen, but I was just a scrappy guy," Bernard said. "I would flip the switch. Maybe not as much as the Vontaze Burfict switch, but I would flip the switch and become a different person on the field. The energy and passion would come out and people would say after the game, 'Wow, I never saw that side of you pushing and shoving another person.' … I hope everyone knows I was a scrappy kind of guy."

They know. Consider it their own thank you note.