CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina tailback Gio Bernard is eager to make his early jump to the NFL.
The sophomore announced Friday his intentions to apply for entry into the 2013 NFL Draft after a big year in which he ranked among the nation's top rushers and punt returners to earn All-America honors.
"I didn't want to base my projections or where I was (in mock drafts)," Bernard said during a news conference. "I think it was moreso that I wanted to move on to the next step in life and fulfill a dream."
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound tailback led the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing, scoring, all-purpose yards and punt-return average. He was a first-team all-ACC selection the past two years, and was a third-team All-American by The Associated Press earlier this week.
A native of Boca Raton, Fla., Bernard is draft-eligible because he has been out of high school for three seasons. He missed the 2010 season with a knee injury and also missed almost three full games this year with another knee injury, but said fear of another injury wasn't a major factor in his decision.
"It didn't really weigh that much," Bernard said. "As a football player, you take risks. Playing the game is a risk in itself. Those things happen. You don't really have control of those things. ... Those are things that you can't really think about it. You just have to go into it with an open mind and just play the game."
Bernard said he planned to come back to earn his degree in spring 2014.
Bernard tore his right anterior cruciate ligament on his third day of preseason practice in 2010, but returned a year later to run for a UNC freshman record 1,253 yards while becoming the first Tar Heel to run for more than 1,000 yards since 1997.
Bernard leaves UNC with 2,481 yards rushing in two seasons, good for 10th in the school record book.
"I don't want to say it's not about money because it's a business and he's going to be making a living and that plays a part in it," Fedora said. "But I think for him, it's more about fulfilling a dream. ... I dreamed about it as a kid. I didn't go very far, but he has this opportunity and I'm ready to live through him in this opportunity."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press