Bright-eyed and ambitious, Yvenson (Evan-SON) Bernard sat at his Boca Raton home in Florida dreaming of playing major college football.
Bernard didn't receive many looks from major colleges due to his small stature. "YB," as many call him, stands 5'9" and 201 pounds. However, there is much more to the once great Beaver running back than first meets the eye.
Sabby Piscitelli, a former high school teammate, Beaver, and now nickelback in the Tampa Bay Bucs' organization, made the 2,696-mile trip to Corvallis to play for the Beavers one year prior to Bernard.
Still a senior at Boca Raton High School—just up I-95 from Fort Lauderdale on the Southeastern tip of Florida—Bernard kept in touch with Sabby throughout the season and learned more about the then-foreign Beaver organization.
While Piscitelli was adjusting to the college game in his redshirt season, Bernard was busy earning honors, including First Team All-South Florida, Honorable Mention All-State, and a trip to the Outback Bowl, which showcases the top prep players in a three-county area.
In this hotbed of talent, seven of Bernard's senior teammates signed with D-I schools out of high school.
Throughout his high school career, Bernard rushed for over 3,000 yards (1,400 and 12 TDs as a senior) and caught the eye of head coach Mike Riley and Associate AD Bob Clifford—who at the time was barbecuing hot dogs for the Boca Raton Booster Club.
Not only a standout on the football field, Yvenson thrived on the baseball diamond as well. The multi-talented Bernard was drafted in the 30th round by the Minnesota Twins.
Needless to say, he chose football and college over the struggle that is minor league baseball. Bernard now has a degree in Merchandising Management through OSU.
With Clifford and Piscitelli in his ear, Riley decided to invite Bernard to Corvallis to begin his collegiate football career with the Beavers.
After the 2004 season and limited playing time at punt returner, Bernard looked towards the 2005 season with great anticipation and high hopes.
In early September 2005, The Gazette Times quoted Mike Riley as saying, "Yvenson Bernard is an overall good football player. He gives us a lot of options as a running back."
Little did he know that would be the understatement of his coaching career.
Following former Beaver great and St. Louis Rams starting running back Steven Jackson, Bernard knew about the tradition at the position over the past decade and the shoes he would be asked to fill.
Jackson and Ken Simonton had left their marks not only in Beaver history, but Pac-10 history as well. In three years, Jackson racked up 3,625 yards on the ground (11th in Pac-10 history) and 4,535 all-purpose yards (second in school history).
Preceding Jackson, Ken Simonton, who was similar to Bernard in stature, finished his career with 5,044 rushing yards, good for first on the all-time Beaver rushing list and second only to Charles White of USC all time in the Pac-10.
Preparation for the 2005 season created competition for the starting running back spot. Florida transfer Jimtavis Walker, JuCo transfer Nate Wright, and freshman Patrick Fuller all pushed Bernard to be the best.
Bernard wound up proving he had the most experience and talent in the group and was named the starter by Riley and his coaching staff.
From that point on, Bernard methodically etched his name in Pac-10 and Beaver history for all to remember with each and every touch.
The shifty sophomore rushed for 1,321 yards and 13 TDs in his first season as the Beavers' go-to guy.
Statistics are the best way to measure consistency, and Bernard's production was eerily similar from year to year.
In his junior season, Bernard rushed again for 1,309 yards and 12 TDs on 296 carries, compared to his 299 in '05.
Not only did Bernard produce on the field, he was a team leader in the huddle, and Coach Riley constantly praised him for his character and work ethic on and off the practice field.
Your everyday football fan may have noticed the 100-yard games and flashy juke moves Bernard deployed Saturday after Saturday, but there was more to YB than just that.
Many close to the game and well informed were more aware of his pass blocking and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield—important for any well-rounded back.
Bernard excelled in all facets of the game and took pride in doing so. It's what made him the all-around player he was and still is to this day.
Entering his senior season, YB was voted team captain by his peers, a humbling honor for the undersized and once ambitious Florida native.
Despite his size and a slew of injuries, Bernard continued to prove that grit, determination, and a willingness to always improve will overshadow any physical shortcomings.
In his final home game at Reser Stadium, Bernard was sent off with a hero's ovation. Bernard's father made the trip from Boca Raton to watch his son play for the first time in his college career.
After an emotional embrace at midfield, Bernard switched gears and focused on the task ahead: beating the Huskies.
While the game was not as clean and sportsmanlike as one would like, the Beavers escaped victorious over the Washington Huskies. Bernard pieced together another vintage workhorse-like performance, gaining 154 yards on 36 carries.
After missing the Civil War against Oregon because of arthroscopic knee surgery, Bernard was excited to return to the field for one last time to face Maryland in the Emerald Bowl.
Again Bernard outdid himself, rushing for 181 yards on 38 carries and a TD. Bernard was named the Emerald Bowl Offensive MVP and finished his career with 3,862 rush yards.
The final mark was second to only Ken Simonton in OSU history and puts Bernard sixth on the all-time Pac-10 rushing list.
Bernard is just 257 yards behind Darrin Nelson of Stanford, and had it not been for injuries that forced YB to miss four games, he very well could be fourth on the all-time list.
Recently signed to the Seattle Seahawks practice squad, Yvenson Bernard is earning his stripes in the NFL, one day hoping to be given the chance to prove he can produce at any level and that the size of one's heart is what drives success.
While Jacquizz Rodgers has put Beaver fans' minds at ease for now, Bernard will forever be remembered as one of Oregon State's greatest.