Bengals running back Bernard makes life-changing gesture

After the first days of grinding through training camp, Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard used his first off day Tuesday not to take a break, but to give one.

Bernard, along with his fiancée Chloe and her mother Anita, spent a few hours at Mercedes Benz of Fort Mitchell (Ky.), where they donated the Honda Odyssey minivan Bernard used to drive as a rookie – the one made famous on Hard Knocks – to injured United States Marine Veteran Corporal Dustin Hogg.

“It was amazing, just that entire experience,” Bernard said Wednesday morning before returning to practice. “And honestly, it wasn’t all me, it was Anita, my mother-in-law that really kind of put it forward. She’s the one that was donating the vehicle. To see it go to a family in need was an awesome experience.”

Anita recently purchases a new vehicle and told the dealership she would like to donate the Odyssey. A dealership employee had just heard about Hogg, a 33-year-old who did two tours in Iraq before suffering an injury during an ambush in Fallujah.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Like our Cincinnati Bengals News Now Facebook page

Hogg, a married father of five, was looking for dependable transportation.

“I was approached by someone that his son played football with saying he was a veteran and he needed a car in Indiana,” Bernard said. “It just so happened it worked out well. Anita was looking to get rid of her old car, and it just worked out really nicely.”

Five years ago, the Odyssey worked out nicely for Bernard.

He met Chloe, a Cincinnati native, during his sophomore year at North Carolina. After the Bengals drafted him in the second round in 2013, Bernard needed a place to stay in Cincinnati so he moved into Anita’s basement.

›› RELATED: Tyler Eifert talks about returning to football after 10 months off

And with his brother’s aging BMW Z3, the car Bernard drove around the UNC campus, unfit to make the drive to Cincinnati, the rookie also needed a car. Anita had two, so she loaned him the minivan.

The first day he drove it to Paul Brown Stadium, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict posted of photo to Twitter of Bernard in the minivan.

“Every single guy on the team probably ended up putting it on social media at the time,” Bernard said. “I was just rollin’ around and obviously the guys gave me heck for it. I drove it for training camp as well and it was on Hard Knocks. The cameras were around all the time, so it was well documented.”

›› MORE: Evans eager to improve on shaky rookie year as he fills in for Burfict

What he thought would be a nondescript ride turned out to be the exact opposite.

“People would see the van and they’d be like ‘That’s Gio!’” he said. “They just went nuts. I wanted to be under the radar, and this car is not helping whatsoever.”

Despite signing a four-year, $5.3 million rookie contract, Bernard continued to drive the minivan into his second season.

“It’s funny because when Ryan Hewitt was a rookie, that was the first car I gave him a ride in,” Bernard said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, get in man.’ He was like ‘Oooooo K.’ Ryan was like ‘You’re already in a van, bro?’ I was like, ‘Nah, it’s not like that. It’s just a loaner vehicle.’”

Follow Jay Morrison on Twitter

Bernard eventually bought a Mercedes – “Not as much storage room, but a little cooler,” he said – but he still called Anita to borrow the minivan from time to time when he needed something larger.

And Tuesday he figured one good favor deserves another.

While Bernard was in Fort Mitchell helping the Hogg family, his running back teammate Joe Mixon was spending his off day at Colerain High School speaking to the Cardinals football team.

Running backs coach Kyle Caskey said he encourages players to get involved in the community, but Bernard and Mixon are two who don’t need any prodding.

›› RELATED: First-round pick Price trying to put rough start behind him

“Gio is mature beyond most NFL players, and Joe is starting to get where he understands there’s more to it than just playing football,” Caskey said. “Joe’s starting young, and he realizes he can affect a lot of lives. He’s got that energy to him.

“These guys do it on their own, which shows what kind of people they are,” Caskey added. “The people of this community are the ones who support us, so they should go back out and show support for them. When Gio does something like he did with the minivan, it really changes somebody’s life.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Report: Browns could interview Condoleezza Rice for head coach job
Report: Browns could interview Condoleezza Rice for head coach job

The Cleveland Browns would like to interview former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to fill the team’s head-coaching job, ESPN reported Sunday citing an anonymous source. John Dorsey, the Browns general manager, said last week the team was open to hiring a woman as head coach, ESPN reported. Rice, who grew up in Alabama, is a longtime...
High School Football: State playoffs scoreboard

Region 13 — Girard 43, Hubbard 18 Region 14 — St. Marys Memorial 38, Bellville Clear Fork 7 Region 15 — Newark Licking Valley 30, St. Clairsville 0 Region 16 — Cin. Wyoming 28, London 0 Region 17 — Orrville 43, Akron Manchester 19 Region 18 — Genoa Area vs. Liberty Center Region 19 — Johnstown-Monroe 45, Byesville...
Cincinnati Bengals: 5 storylines to watch Sunday vs. Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals: 5 storylines to watch Sunday vs. Baltimore Ravens

The Cincinnati Bengals are calling Sunday’s game at Baltimore a potential “make or break” situation. Coming off one of their worst losses in franchise history, the Bengals (5-4) are looking to turn things around before they fall out of AFC playoff contention. They currently remain in position to earn the sixth seed, while the Ravens...
Ohio State beats Maryland in OT thriller; showdown with Michigan up next
Ohio State beats Maryland in OT thriller; showdown with Michigan up next

Ohio State kept its Big Ten football championship hopes alive by the slimmest of margins Saturday. The Buckeyes needed overtime to beat Maryland 52-51, setting up a game for the Big Ten East title and a berth in the Big Ten championship game when Michigan visits next Saturday. Coach Urban Meyer’s team has a lot to fix before it will be ready...
Wright State rolls to easy win over North Florida
Wright State rolls to easy win over North Florida

North Florida knew the scouting report said it had to do everything possible to stop Loudon Love, but the Ospreys had no one who could match up with the 6-foot-8, 270-pound center. Their frontcourt players were all 6-8 or shorter and weighed 223 pounds or less, and they were moved around inside like chess pieces. Love scored 13 of his season-high 20...
More Stories