Already known for his dynamic playmaking abilities while at North Carolina, the Bengals didn't hesitate to make him the first running back drafted last year—the move paid off in a big way.
As a rookie, Bernard rushed 170 times for 695 yards—an average of 4.1 yards per carry—and five touchdowns. A reliable receiver as well, he caught 56 receptions for 514 yards and an additional three scores.
Bernard's 1,209 yards from scrimmage was good enough for second on the team, just behind All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green.
With a bright future ahead, the second-year running back enters the 2014 season, not only with high expectations for his team, but as one of the NFL's emerging young role models.
For any football player, maintaining hydration during workouts, practices and games is of the utmost importance. Bernard's realized this, and over the offseason, he's become a spokesperson for Vita Coco—an electrolyte-rich coconut water, which he now uses for his daily training regimen.
Bernard was kind enough to speak about how Vita Coco has played an integral part of keeping him healthy throughout the offseason, and he also shared his thoughts on his role in the offense, his teammates and the outlook for the coming season.
Sean O'Donnell: Last year, you were a second-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals. This year, the team brought in running back Jeremy Hill of LSU in the same round. Have you had a chance to speak to him yet, and are you familiar with his game?
Giovani Bernard: "Yeah, I mean, we've been working together going through OTAs, and he's a great player. I've had a chance to meet him. He's a good dude, and he understands the game. I think the biggest thing is that he understands what Hue [Jackson] wants to do with the offense and he's on board.
I mean, we just have a really big running back corps right now. We're definitely going to need it for this upcoming season. I know how Hue Jackson is and his whole philosophy running the ball. But it's going to be a fun season, and I'm excited to get back into it and see what we can do."
SO: What are your expectations for the Bengals backfield this season with yourself, Hill and BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the mix?
GB: "You know, for me, I don't know if it’s expectations or a goal-type thing, but we expect ourselves to be great. Hue has always been the type of person to make you a better player by getting coached by him. He always wants you to be a better player.
We've been surrounded by great players. Benny is one of the guys you really want to surround yourself with—you really want to be in his hip pocket just because he knows a lot about the game. So, with me and Jeremy being young backs, if we can follow our game after Benny, we can learn a lot from him."
SO: This is now your second year in the league, and you’ll now be working with a new offensive coordinator. Obviously, you're very familiar with Hue Jackson, as he was the Bengals running backs coach last season. What kind of changes can we expect to see on the offensive side of the ball with him at the helm?
GB: "Yeah, I mean, I can't tell you all of the secrets—I don't want to put all the goodies out there, but it's going to be a fun season. That's one of the things I've been telling people. I don't want to give all the ins and outs—defenses already be scouting us without seeing a thing, but it's going to be a fun season.
I'm excited. We have a lot of playmakers, and everybody knows that. But, I think with Hue's philosophy, of being great and wanting to be great—I think that's what's going to push it over the edge."
SO: Speaking of changes, word on the street is you'll be seeing some more action in the slot this year. What are your thoughts on that new role?
GB: "Yeah, for me, whenever I have the opportunity to get on the field, I do it. Being in the slot or being in the backfield—you know, if they need me to play quarterback, I'll play quarterback. Whatever they need me to do, I'll be that guy to step in. No matter where it is on the field, I want to be a part of it because I want to help the team win.
I definitely have to get a little more reps in the slot—that doesn't mean I'm just going to be a receiver now, but it's going to be a fun season. Like I said before, I don't want to give away all of my secrets."
SO: Have you set any personal goals for this season?
GB: "You know, I've never been a person that sets goals. I don't know why—I think I should—but I've never been that type of way. I kind of just let everything come as it goes. Obviously, I want to do better than I did last season, so I just continue to keep getting better—mature as a player on and off the field, and hopefully I'll do good.
For me, it's never been about the individual goals, it's been about the team goals. Obviously, one thing on my mind is getting a playoff win. So, that's what I'm focused on right now. That's what we're all trying to get to, and hopefully we can get it."
SO: You became an instant fan favorite last year during HBO’s Hard Knocks…
GB: "[Laughs] Ah, don't ask me about it! Don't ask me!"
SO: One thing everyone remembers is your transportation—the minivan. I have to ask: Have you bought yourself a new ride yet?
GB: "That's confidential news. Maybe I have, maybe I haven't. But I'm not going to put that out there yet.
Let's just say I did get a new vehicle—something that's not a crazy car—something that's in my price range. But I'm not saying I did, and I'm not saying I didn't."
SO: Giovani, you're part of a team including some incredible athletes such as Marshawn Lynch, Julio Jones, Yasiel Puig and more, representing Vita Coco. Can you tell me a bit about the product and how it's affected you and your training?
GB: "I think the biggest thing for me is when I first originally tried it, it was after a workout. I was down in south Florida, and as everybody knows, it's hot as heck down there. I tried it, and I can honestly say it was better than having Gatorade right after.
It just tasted really good, and I thought since it was coconut water it wouldn't taste very good, but it was so natural and it actually tasted really good—they have different flavors—but that was my first experience with it, and I just never went back.
I haven't had any cramps, so I guess it's doing something right."
A special thanks to Bengals running back and Vita Coco spokesperson Giovani Bernard for taking the time to interview with Bleacher Report.
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