American Football Database

The Brian Piccolo Award is an honor that is given to players of the Chicago Bears. The award is given to one rookie and one veteran per season who best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo. Piccolo was a running back for the Bears from 1966 until his untimely death from embryonal cell carcinoma on June 16, 1970, at age 26.


Brian Piccolo went un-drafted in the 1965 NFL Draft despite being named the ACC Player of the Year at Wake Forest (1964), where he led the nation with points (111) and yards rushing (1,044) as a senior. In 1965, Piccolo tried out for the Chicago Bears as a free agent and made the team. He progressed from the practice squad to the back-up of starting tailback Gale Sayers by 1967. For the 1969 season, Piccolo was named the starting fullback for the Chicago Bears.

On November 16, during the ninth game of the 1969 season in Atlanta, Piccolo voluntarily removed himself from the game due to extreme difficulty breathing on the field. When the team returned to Chicago, he received a medical examination and chest x-ray that revealed a malignancy. He was then diagnosed with embryonal cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of testicular cancer that had already spread to his chest cavity. After the diagnosis, Piccolo underwent surgery at Sloan-Kettering in New York City to remove the tumor. He had another surgery to remove his left lung and pectoral muscle in April 1970. Later in June of the same year, Piccolo started to feel chest pain and was re-admitted to the hospital, where doctors determined that the cancer had spread to other organs, most notably his liver. Piccolo died on Tuesday, June 16, 1970, at the age of 26. His courageous battle was later portrayed in the classic 1971 TV movie Brian's Song, starring James Caan as Piccolo.

When Piccolo died in 1970, embryonal cell carcinoma was 100% fatal. With advances in medicine over the years, more than 50% of patients with the disease are now cured.

The Brian Piccolo Award was originally awarded the same year as Piccolo's death (1970) to a Chicago Bears rookie who "best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo".

In 1990, the Chicago Bears commissioned Chicago native and artist, Tom McKee, to design and sculpt the Brian Piccolo Award that is currently awarded. Each year this bronze sculpture is given to a Bears rookie and a veteran player (since 1992).

Award winners

The Brian Piccolo Award ceremony is held at Halas Hall each year, where Bears center Olin Kreutz and wide receiver Johnny Knox received the 2009 trophy. Previous award winners include Brian Urlacher (2000, 2007), Charles Tillman (2003, 2008, 2013), Tommie Harris (2004), Devin Hester (2006), Greg Olsen (2007), Matt Forte (2008, 2015). Nick Roach and Stephen Paea were the recipients of the Award in 2012,[1] while Tillman, Shea McClellin and Julius Peppers received the Award in 2013.[2] The following year, Jordan Mills and Josh McCown were awarded, but Jay Cutler accepted McCown's award, due to McCown joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2013 season.[3]

Brian Piccolo Award winners

Year Player Position
2019 Roquan Smith LB
2019 Akiem Hicks DL
2018 Tarik Cohen RB
2018 Benny Cunningham RB
2017 Josh Bellamy WR/ST
2017 Jordan Howard RB
2016 Zach Miller TE
2016 Adrian Amos S
2015 Matt Forte RB
2015 Kyle Fuller CB
2014 Josh McCown QB
2014 Jordan Mills OT
2013 Shea McClellin DE
2013 Julius Peppers DE
2013 Charles Tillman CB
2012 Stephen Paea DT
2012 Nick Roach LB
2011 J'Marcus Webb OT
2011 Anthony Adams DT
2010 Johnny Knox WR
2010 Olin Kreutz C
2009 Olin Kreutz C
2009 Johnny Knox WR
2008 Charles Tillman CB
2008 Matt Forte RB
2007 Brian Urlacher LB
2007 Greg Olsen TE
2006 Olin Kreutz C
2006 Devin Hester PR/KR
2005 John Tait T
2005 Chris Harris S
2004 Olin Kreutz C
2004 Tommie Harris DT
2003 Olin Kreutz C
2003 Charles Tillman CB
2002 Phillip Daniels DE
2002 Alex Brown DE
2001 James Williams T
2001 Anthony Thomas RB
2000 Clyde Simmons DE
2000 Brian Urlacher LB
1999 Marcus Robinson WR
1999 Jerry Azumah DB
1998 Bobby Engram WR
1998 Tony Parrish S
1997 Ryan Wetnight TE
1997 John Allred TE
1997 Van Hiles S
1996 Chris Zorich DT
1996 Bobby Engram WR
1995 Erik Kramer QB
1995 Rashaan Salaam RB
1994 Shaun Gayle S
1994 Raymont Harris RB
1993 Tom Waddle WR
1993 Myron Baker LB
1993 Todd Perry T
1992 Mike Singletary LB
1992 Troy Auzenne T
1991 Chris Zorich DT
1990 Mark Carrier S
1989 Trace Armstrong DE
1988 James Thornton TE
1988 Mickey Pruitt LB
1987 Ron Morris WR
1986 Neal Anderson RB
1985 Kevin Butler K
1984 JD Maarleveld T
1983 Jim Covert T
1982 Jim McMahon QB
1981 Mike Singletary LB
1980 Bob Fisher TE
1979 Dan Hampton DE
1978 John Skibinski RB
1977 Ted Albrecht T
1976 Brian Baschnagel WR
1975 Roland Harper RB
1974 Fred Pagac TE
1973 Wally Chambers DT
1972 Jim Osborne DT
1971 Jerry Moore S
1970 Glen Holloway G


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