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Brian Piccolo
Running Back (1966-1969)



When my mom was pregnant with me. She seen a movie called Brian's Song, it is a true story about a football player. After, she seen the movie she deicided to name me Brian after him. Here is something about the man I am named after.

Chicago Bears tenacious running back Brian Piccolo. Brian Piccolo will long be remembered for his desire and perseverance as he wasn't fast enough or big enough to play in the NFL. However the size of his heart more than made up for the physical liabilities. In an era where blacks and whites seldom mixed Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers became the very best of friends.

Brian Piccolo, one of the greatest athletes in Wake Forest history died of cancer June 16 in New York's Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases. He was buried three days later in Saint Mary's Cemetery in Chicago after a requiem Mass at Christ the Ring Roman Catholic Church. The 26-year-old football star is survived by hits wife, Joy, and three young daughters. He is also survived by lingering admiration for hits courageous spirit, which was evidenced even more in his final battle against death than in his life's many contests on the football field.

Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo, both running backs for the Chicago Bears, began rooming together in 1967. During the 1969 season, Piccolo was cut down with cancer. They had planned, with their wives, to sit together at the Professional Football Writers annual dinner in New York, where Sayers was to be given the George S. Halas Award as the most courageous player in pro football. But instead, "Pick" was confined to his bed at home. At the dinner, Sayers stood to receive the award, tears in his eyes. The ordinarily terse athlete had this to say as he took the trophy:

"You flatter me by giving me this award, but I tell you here and now that I accept it for Brian Piccolo. Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who should receive the George S. Halas Award. I love Brian Piccolo, and I'd like you to love him." "I love Brian Piccolo."

How many times have you heard a man say something like that? Not very often. Yet how much richer would our lives be if we had the courage to declare our affection as Sayers did that night in New York.

Played college ball at Wake Forest under Bear great Beattie Feathers. Led nation in rushing and scoring in his senior year. Signed with the Bears as a free agent in 1965. Took over Fullback duties from Ronnie Bull in 1967 to be paired with Gayle Sayers in the backfield. Became teamed with Ronnie Bull in the backfield when Sayer went down with his first of two knee injuries. Piccolo ran for 450 yards, including a 112 yard game against the Saints Dec. 1, 1968. Piccolo's career was stopped short in November of 1969 when doctors discovered that a persistant cough he had developed was actually lung cancer. He underwent surgery and never returned to the Bears. In May of 1970, Gayle Sayers was awarded the George Halas award for "Most Courageous Athlete of the Year". Upon accepting the award, Sayers noted that a mistake had been made. He said the award should have gone to Brian Piccolo. Below is an excerpt of this speech:

"Think of Brian and his courage and fortitude shown in the months since last November, in and out of hospitals, hoping to play football again but not too sure at any time what the score was or might be. Brian Piccolo has never given up.

"He has the heart of a giant and that rare form of courage that allows him to kidhimself and his opponent, cancer. He has the mental attitude that makes me proud to have a friend who spells out the word courage twenty-four hours a day, every day of his life.

"You flatter me by giving me this award, but I tell you here and now that I accept it for Brian Piccolo. Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who whould receive the award. It is mine tonight. It is Brian Piccolo's tomorrow.

"I love Brian Piccolo and I'd like all of you to love him. When you hit your knees to pray tonight, please ask God to love him...too"

Piccolo died that June at the age of 26 years old.

Piccolo's rushed 258 times for 927 yards and 4 TDs. He also received 58 passes for 537 yards and one TD in his career.

Every year, Bear players vote the Brian Piccolo award to the rookie and veteren who best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication, and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo. The award is presented to the players at a banquet following the Piccolo golf tournament which helps raise money for cancer research.

Brian Piccolo lived life like he played football. He did not know the meaning of quiiting. With the heart of a champion, refusing to give up until the final whistle blew. I know now he is in heaven still playing football with all the past stars. I have always thought he was a All-star player. Now maybe his star will shine in the night sky letting everyone know, he will always be a part of the game and a hero to a few. His spirit will always be at the ballparks, games and with his children.

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My Brian Piccolo card

Brian Piccolo