Giovani Bernard lives simple rookie life, including driving his girlfriend’s mom’s van

Frank Schwab
August 13, 2013

There's enough for a NFL rookie to worry about, especially for someone like Giovani Bernard, who is expected to contribute to a playoff contender right away.

So Bernard has simplified things. Included in that is eschewing a car payment, because he doesn't own a car. He drives his girlfriend's mom's van instead, as shown on last week's "Hard Knocks" episode (the second episode premieres Tuesday night at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time on HBO).

As a second-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, the running back from North Carolina got a $5.253 million contract with a $2.2 million signing bonus. Most young players, even ones who made far, far less on their rookie contract, take that money straight to the luxury car dealership. He just borrowed a Honda minivan.

"It's a car that gets me from point A to point B," Bernard said, as part of an interview series for Gillette deodorant's "Built for Training" program seen on "It's definitely good on gas."

Between Bernard and the story of Redskins running back Alfred Morris proudly driving a 1991 Mazda 626, maybe this is a new fad for young athletes.

Bernard didn't have a use for an Escalade or a Mercedes. He got a modest apartment very close to Paul Brown Stadium. He's set.

"My apartment is super close, and if I do need a ride to practice, my girlfriend can drive me," Bernard said.

After so many stories of athletes spending their money as soon as they get it, then coming to the end of the line as a player and not having anything, Bernard's story is nice to hear. He heard about the horror stories and it stuck with him.

"Of course," said Bernard, who said he also hears some jokes from the Bengals veterans. "You hear about guys getting in trouble. It's being smart with what you get. You take that into account. Whether it's being thrifty, frugal – whatever the word might be."

Bernard said he sticks with an ordinary, quiet existence (with the exception being when "Hard Knocks" met him at the airport before training camp, which he admitted was kind of strange), which won't hurt him as a rookie. Even his relationship with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, shown in the Gillette "Built for Training" series of episodes, isn't complicated.

It was obvious, as a highly-drafted rookie with big-play ability the Bengals lacked outside of A.J. Green the last couple years, that Bernard was going to be a big part of the offense right away. Green-Ellis will be too, as a five-year veteran coming off a 1,094-yard season. So Bernard just follows the veteran's lead.

"I'm still learning a lot from him, I follow what he does on an everyday basis," Bernard said. "We know we're going ot be teammates, and we know we're going for the same goal. Benny is more of a soft-spoken guy. That probably helps. He's a good guy and a great teammate."

It's all simple for Bernard. For a team that needs him to be productive, the Bengals have to appreciate his focus.

"I just want to establish myself on the team and in the NFL," Bernard said. "Whatever it takes, I want to do it. I don't set out and say, 'I want 1,000 yards rushing' or a certain amount of receiving yards or anything like that. That's not how I play the game. I go out there just to win."

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