Alumni Spotlight: Garrett and Nick Bernardo
If history repeats itself, Garrett and Nick Bernardo will lay claim to something probably unique among Anderson University alumni: they’ll be a part of winning a Super Bowl.
To understand how, it helps to know what the Bernardo brothers have been up to since Garrett graduated in 2015 and Nick in 2016. Before they played together on the Trojan baseball team and earned degrees from the Anderson University College of Business, they developed a small enterprise, selling custom T-shirts and tank tops. Eventually that “side hobby” became NOVUS Clothing Company, a custom uniform and apparel manufacturer headquartered in Albany, New York.
It also helps to know that Garrett and Nick understand the important role networking plays in developing a small start-up into a global business. It’s how they got to know Dagmara Wozniak, who twice represented the United States as a fencer at the Olympics (2012 and 2016.) And it’s how, coupled with a quality product, they connected with Harrison Butker.
Pretty much everyone knows that the Kansas City Chiefs, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, won Super Bowl LIV. What you may not know is that Butker was instrumental in that win over the San Francisco 49ers last February. He went 4-4 on extra point attempts and kicked a 31-yard field goal, helping the Chiefs win the Lombardi Trophy. Butker holds 12 Chiefs records, including most field goals made in a season (38, in 2017) and best career field-goal percentage (89.7 percent.)
Butker is Garrett and Nick Bernardo’s newest client, having launched his own clothing line with NOVUS in July. And with the Chiefs as the odds-on favorite to repeat as NFL champions this season, the Garrett brothers know theirs is the opportunity of a lifetime.
Garrett and Nick sat down for a conversation with Anderson University Associate Vice President for Alumni and Parent Engagement Jason Rutland to detail their journey from Trojans to successful businessmen.
(Interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Jason Rutland: What can you tell me about each of your paths to Anderson University?
Garrett Bernardo: I transferred to AU after my sophomore year at the University of Maine. I had been playing baseball at UMaine with my brother, Nick, but wanted to pursue my baseball career by going down south. The summer after my sophomore year I was planning on playing summer ball to get recruited to a new school, but I broke my wrist in my first week of practice. I was devastated, thinking my opportunity to be seen by coaches was over. However, a few weeks later my brother Nick was playing in a summer ball game out in Cooperstown, New York, and one of the assistant coaches from AU approached him after the game. It was there that Nick told the coach I had been looking to transfer to play ball down south. Weeks later, after a few phone calls, I found myself flying down to AU, touring the campus and then committing to transfer down that fall. I had no idea what to expect … but I was excited for a new opportunity to pursue my dreams.
Nick Bernardo: It’s a pretty special story that I never thought would lead to what came to be. I was playing a summer collegiate baseball game in Cooperstown, New York at historic Doubleday Field when two coaches approached me after my game. To be honest, I wasn’t even going to make the game but my two good friends said they’d drive with me, so I said, “Let’s do it!” One of those coaches who stopped me happened to be Anderson University Assistant Coach Riley McDermott. He began to quickly share about Anderson University, a school I hadn’t heard of being from upstate New York. The coaches mentioned that Anderson had a strong MBA program if I ever had interest in pursuing my fifth year of playing eligibility. God plants seeds In the most unique of ways, because at that very time my brother Garrett was looking to transfer from the University of Maine. My plan was to finish my senior year at Maine. Funny how God opened the door that one day in Cooperstown, which ultimately led Garrett to Anderson that fall, and myself that following year to start my MBA and play one final year of college baseball with my brother. I’m forever grateful.
Rutland: How did Anderson University make an impact on your personally? How did it impact you professionally?
Nick Bernardo: My two AU years were a tremendous life-building experience. I was opened up into the world of real college football, real BBQ and true hospitality. Moreover, being enrolled in an academic institution centered around the Christian faith in particular to business was extremely refreshing coming from a colder faith environment at the University of Maine. Servant-based leadership, leading like Jesus and having the opportunity to learn and observe several strong business leaders in the Greenville-based area have been ingrained in me to this day. The MBA classes brought a great taste of real world business experiences that being so young at the time were eye opening and truly impactful. Lastly, it is the long-lasting friendships I hold dear the most. College roommates, being in their weddings, and having flat-out fun authentic friendship can never be taken away!
Garrett Bernardo: My years at AU expanded my world and perspective more than I could’ve ever imagined. Not only did I have the opportunity to meet lifelong friends, but I made some of my fondest memories, whether it be on campus in the classroom setting or exploring the surrounding area like Greenville, Clemson or Atlanta, which were all within striking distance. Anderson feels like a second home to me, and I attribute that to the genuine people I met during my time as a student-athlete, and I hope to be a part of all that AU is and will become in the years ahead.
Professionally, I really felt like AU equipped me with the tools I needed to pursue my dreams in the business world. As a business management major, I really grew to love the small-scale classroom size where I wasn’t one of 300 students in a massive lecture hall. Being in classes with 25 students really challenged me to make the most of my studies and I was able to develop great relationships with my professors. I look back on my time as a student at AU and realize those years were pivotal in building my confidence to ask questions, learn from experienced professionals and work in team settings, whether it be on the baseball field or in the classroom while tackling group projects.
Additionally, NOVUS really started to take root on the campus of AU as we saw many of our teammates, coaches, teachers, staff and fellow students help us promote and get the brand off the ground. To have that kind of support and see people believe in NOVUS and what we were doing is something that I’ll forever be grateful for.
Rutland: What was your favorite moments on campus?
Garrett Bernardo: I absolutely loved my time as a student athlete at Anderson. Every day I had the opportunity to walk through the beautiful campus, socialize and learn with the people I loved. My head coach, Joe Miller, and assistant coach, Kaleb Davis, were special people God put in my path, and getting to play for guys that truly lived out what it means to be men of integrity did more for me than I can express. I learned a lot from their leadership and I look back at my time playing for them with nothing but gratitude. My favorite single memory would probably be playing alongside with my brother, Nick, and us helping the team to a walk-off win after Nick drove me in with a game-winning hit that sealed our spot in the playoffs. It was special to celebrate a moment like that together and with our teammates.
Nick Bernardo: Some of my favorite moments on Campus were my days working at the print shop with the one and only Shelli Rutland (associate director of marketing.) Her joy and fun conversation was contagious and was just a perfect example of how AU staff had the ability to brighten your day. I was enrolled in the MBA program on the Greenville campus so any time I had the opportunity to go to the AU campus it was always a joy. It was beautifully maintained and always an environment where I felt I could get work done. On the playing field, it was the walk-off win where I drove Garrett in with a game winning hit that sealed our spot in the playoffs. The entire team stormed the field. It was a special moment I’ll never forget.
Rutland: Tell us about the development of NOVUS.
Garrett Bernardo: NOVUS was really a side hobby Nick, myself and our buddy Scott started while we were student-athletes at the college campuses of UMaine and Rutgers University, respectively. We were selling tanks and tees that we printed at a local print shop with our crown logo and NOVUS across the chest. NOVUS is Latin for “fresh and new beginnings.” The crown logo is based on the verse from James 1:12, which was from a poster that hung on our childhood bedroom. It says, “Blessed are those who persevere under trial, for when that person has stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God promises to those who love him.” We wanted to develop our own clothing that was unique in appearance, whether it be the logo itself or the physical product enough to make someone notice that something was different about it. Just like someone living a Christ-centered life, we wanted our apparel to give off the same effect of being uncommon and a way of doing mission in a fresh, new way. CLAIM YOUR CROWN became our slogan, which was coined in our apartment in Anderson with our fellow students as a mantra of the life we wanted to promote. As the years have gone by, we have found our niche in the custom sportswear and team uniform business outfitting high schools, colleges and both professional athletes and teams. We feel very fortunate as NOVUS is the perfect combination of our passions of faith, sports and building relationships.
Rutland: What kind of clothing do you strive to produce at NOVUS?
Nick Bernardo: We specialize in the fields of custom sportswear and team uniforms, but are steadily building out our corporate line of products. We want people to know that our brand is mission-driven, meaning our clothes embody every sense of who we are. We take great pride in the quality of our clothing and we know it is a vehicle to make a positive impact on the lives of the individuals who wear NOVUS. We feel we have a mission that people from any walk of life can relate to and we want to inspire the world to go out and CLAIM YOUR CROWN. We recognize that every time a NOVUS product is worn, a new dream is being chased, a new trial is being faced and a new story is being written, a story that the world is waiting to hear. And that story is yours.
Rutland: What was the process like securing your first professional athlete?
Garrett Bernardo: Relationships and quality have been the driving forces in the growth of our business. We knew if we kept developing our product and service to the best of our ability, our gear would speak for itself. We love building relationships so we knew if we kept putting quality product out there and plugged into our network, more opportunities would flow from that. And that is exactly how we captured the attention of our first professional athlete, two-time U.S. Olympic fencer Dagmara Wozniak, and now building our team with the recent signing of Harrison Butker, Super Bowl champion kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs. I met Harrison’s manager at a conference hosted by FOCUS, a college campus missionary program that I worked for post-college who we now are proud to outfit and be a vendor at their annual events. A few months after meeting the manager, Nick and I flew out to meet with Harrison in his home, showcasing our products and giving him a background on what we do and how he could craft his own line with us. We really hit it off on a personal level which has made it a dream come true, getting to work with not only a superstar athlete, but a guy that we really feel like we are brothers with.
Rutland: What else would you like to add about your experience at Anderson University, and with NOVUS?
Nick Bernardo: We are so grateful for our time at AU as it has formed us both personally and professionally with NOVUS. We feel like we have a true southern family and home down south. We are thankful for our friendships and all the people who made us northern boys feel so loved and welcomed during our time at Anderson. We hope to always be back and contribute however we can to the place where our dreams and ambitions were fostered. CLAIM YOUR CROWN and Long Live Anderson!
To learn more about NOVUS Clothing Company, access its online shop or inquire about custom orders, visit novusclothingcompany.com.