“I’m coming home mom.”
That’s the last line from Senior Glenn Bernard Jr engagement tweet when he signed with the University of Northern Colorado football program.
Bernard Jr. considers LaPlace, Louisiana his hometown. He spent most of his childhood there – you can hear it in his voice – and his father stays in the area. However, Colorado means more to him than most realize.
The offensive lineman was born in Denver 23 years ago. His mother lived in Aurora while his father, Glenn Bernard Sr., worked in New Orleans. She died when he was 2.
“I was only with my son,” said Bernard Sr. “I raised my son on my own with the help of some family members and that’s why I’m really proud of him.”
UNC will honor Bernard Jr. along with 12 of his teammates for Senior Day on Saturday. His father and his father’s fiancé will be accompanying him, but he has a lot of people cheering him on.
“I did it because he needed someone”
One of the doctors at Bernard Jr.’s birth said he knew Denver Bronco, but Bernard Sr. disagreed. When his son ended up in the NFL, Bernard Sr. wanted him in a New Orleans Saints jersey.
The outgoing Bear may not play professionally, but he got part of his prediction right: Bernard Jr. played football in Colorado and in a position known for its size. It just took him longer than the doctor probably expected to get here.
After the death of his mother, Bernard Jr. went to live with his father in the New Orleans area. Elanda Banks, who considers Bernard Jr. a mother figure, said she took on a parenting role for him.
Banks said she was acquainted with him and his father, but it wasn’t until high school that Bernard Jr. became close with the family. Through the sport, he became friends with their son Jalen. It started as a carpool and grew into a deeper relationship.
In fact, she learned his story and knew she wanted to be an adult he could trust. Banks also grew up in the same area as Bernard Jr.’s mother, which gave her even more importance.
“His father did a really, really good job of always being present in his life. I just felt like I could be an outlet for him,” Banks said. “He had his father and most boys need their father, but they also need their mother; a mother’s touch or a mother’s thoughts about different things they may be going through in life.
The family invited Bernard Jr. to everything. He went to church, ate meals and watched football. Banks offered advice and support whenever possible.
Bernard Jr. said she cheered him on when he graduated from high school like she was his biological mother. She also made sure he did his homework and supported him at soccer games.
He did not receive a Division I football offer, so he initially attended Fullerton College in California. Banks never let him give up on his dream.
“Whatever we did, he was always welcome,” Banks said. “I only did it because he needed someone. I just want him to know that I will always be there for him whenever he needs it.”
Since moving to Greeley, Bernard Jr. has kept in touch with Banks. He informed about travel plans home and told her that he was going to join a church. She calls to check in.
It may not seem like much to others, but she is helping to fill a void left by his mother’s death.
“He was always looking for a mother figure because he was a kid, a baby, when his mother died,” Bernard Sr said. “That’s what everyone wants.”
“Push Further to the Stars”
In high school, he helped his team win the 2016 state championship and was a first-team All-State selection a year later.
He attended Fullerton from 2018 to 2020 before joining UNC. Bernard Jr. played in eight games last season and started in two. This year he has been in and out of the lineup due to injury.
Now Bernard Jr. is looking forward to his future. Hopefully, this includes a successful career, voluntary work and a family of your own.
Above all, Bernard Jr. wants to give something back. Banks describes him as respectful, even-tempered, and gentle. Even when he gets angry, he keeps his emotions in check and stays friendly.
That might not be first impression considering he regularly attacks other men and acts as a security guard at events hosted by teammate Elijah Anderson-Taylor. However, everyone seems to agree on his character.
He is considered one of the leaders of the team, doing everything with an infectious smile and positive attitude. During a press conference this season, Bernard Jr. spent some time laughing alongside tight end Max Pierce.
Hopefully this passion and joy will carry him into his future career. Bernard Jr. said he wanted to be a firefighter and eventually work with children.
Bernard Sr. said his son loves children and enjoys making their lives brighter. A few weeks ago, he presented a young fan with autographed gloves.
A Safeway employee took his children to a game after Bernard Jr. gave him tickets that were given away to friends and family.
Part of that comes from his mother, Bernard Sr. said, but part of it is how he was raised.
Bernard Jr. acknowledges all of the ways people have invested in him, whether it’s with banks or the workers at his local Boys and Girls Club.
That’s why he enjoys the football camps that UNC hosts. He teamed with offensive lineman Brady Odom to once help out at a food distribution event at the Weld County club. One day he wants to create a safe place for children like him.
“When I was younger I went to a boys and girls club. I was there a little bit. With all the women in there, I just connected because I never had that mother figure,” Bernard said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Maybe that will be his own boys and girls club. Maybe it will work with CPS or create another organization. Whatever it is, Bernard Jr. wants to give back. Otherwise, he probably would never have joined UNC or been on his way to pursuing a master’s degree.
Banks cannot join the Bernards on Saturday but will be there in spirit. These are the people he will think of when he is honored this weekend: his mother and everyone who supported him.
“I would say I’m so proud of him and I strive to keep striving toward the stars,” Banks said. “Whatever he wants to do, I’ve always known him for it. Keep pushing and let nothing, no obstacle, stop you. Always use the obstacles as stepping stones and not as stumbling blocks.”
UNC hosts Northern Arizona for Senior Citizens Day Saturday noon. The Bears will honor 13 outgoing seniors, including Bernard Jr, 30 minutes before kickoff. The game will stream on ESPN+ and is available on 1310 KFKA.