CUBuffs.com profiles 2012 CU Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Frank Bernardi, All-America and All-Big Seven wing back for the Buffaloes in the early 1950's. Bernardi has been involved in CU Athletics for over 50 years, supporting the Alumni C-Club. Twelve CU greats were enshrined this past Thursday, click here for a recap of the event.
During his athletic career at the University of Colorado, the two-sport star in football and baseball, Frank Bernardi was known for using his head to get things done. Today he is known as one of the men that has been keeping the Alumni C-Club; alive and thriving for over 50 years. Together Bernardi is well deserving of being inducted into this years, Hall Of Fame class.
In 1950 CU nearly lost this amazing Buffalo to the University of Arizona before the head football coach Dal Ward visited Bernardi’s home in Chicago. Coach Ward urged the family to visit the Boulder campus, and when they did Bernardi said, “The view was magnificent and I really like Dal Ward… I didn’t make it to Arizona.”
|Frank Bernardi on a run against Nebraska in 1954.
At 5-foot-9 and weighing 175 pounds, Bernardi battled some big odds due to his size. But coach Ward decided to use Bernardi as a football wingback and after his first year Ward said, “He [has] blossomed into almost everything that was expected of him.”
A knee injury sidelined Bernardi from playing his sophomore season which he underwent surgery in December of 1952. His junior year Bernardi found his stride that led to an amazing senior year.
It was his senior year things became very interesting for Bernardi. He along with senior Carroll Hardy, were a devastating one-two punch on the football field for the team, which at that time competed in the Big Seven Conference. This duo became known not only all around the campus, but all over the state and was even referred to as a Vaudeville act sometimes.
Then one incident changed Bernardi’s football career forever. In a game against Missouri, the Tigers scored with less than a minute left in the game to tie Colorado 19-19, an extra point would mean a win for Missouri. “I was going to block that kick at any cost,” Bernardi explained. “When Missouri got its touchdown I felt all the worse. I made up my mind to block the kick after their third touchdown. I worked it out with Lamar (Meyer, CU end) as we lined up to get an extra step. I did and the next thing I remembered was being led to the bench.”
Bernardi ended up blocking the kick as he sped in from the left side but, he didn’t just block the kick, he ended up blocking it with his face. Bernardi’s nose was badly broken, his right eye was swollen shut from the impact, and he received a minor concussion. Word of this block spread quickly, and even 48 hours after the game people were still giving him a round of applause for what he did.
|Frank Bernardi earned second team All-America honors in 1954.
“If there was one man on the University of Colorado football squad to be singled out for his efforts it would be wingback Frank Bernardi”
This quote was never more evident than when Bernardi showed up to practice the next Monday after the infamous game with a statement in hand, “Why is everybody surprised to see me. I don’t run with my nose.” That perfectly describes Frank Bernardi in a sentence; he was here to play and to give it everything he had.
That year, Bernardi was chosen as one of the winners of the “Football Player of the Year” award in a poll taken by the members of the Rockne Club. He also made the All-Big-Seven team, was an AP second team All-American, he was named The Outstanding Back in the Missouri Valley region by the MV chapter of the FWAA, he made the Shrine West squad and the College All-Star Squad.
But Frank Bernardi didn’t only play football; he was also on the baseball team. He was primarily an outfielder but was known for leading the Buffs in home runs (6) and also runs batted (26).
Bernardi was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals in the fourth round of the 1955 NFL draft. He was the 38th player picked overall. Bernardi played at Chicago for six years before he was traded to the Denver Broncos for their inaugural season of the AFL in 1960, this was his last season playing football.
Bernardi is now a driving force in organizing an active C-Club of Colorado, establishing a link between the alumni and the athletic department. He has remained in this club for 50 years and on at least two occasions he almost single-handedly kept the club from going inactive.
This Colorado Buffalo was an amazing college player in both of his sports, went on to compete well in the NFL and today is doing some amazing things for his alma mater. Bernardi is well deserving of being inducted into this years 2012 Hall Of Fame class.