Brian Piccolo – Brians Song

Posted: May 5, 2013 in NFL Player Profiles
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Most people have heard of the movie Brian’s Song; and it is an amazing story about Brian Piccolo.  You wont see him in the Hall of Fame, and he never put up incredible numbers, but he was a blocker for some of the greatest running backs of all-time.  He played in an era where race was still a huge issue, and he was a fullback who considered to be very undersized.  Piccolo is an inspiration and his story can still be applied to people today.

Louis Brian Piccolo was born on October 31st, 1943 in Massachusetts.  He was the youngest of 3 sons, and when he was 12 years old his family moved to Florida.  Piccolo was a star athlete in baseball and football while attending high school.  All of his brothers were athletes as well, so there was always a competitive scene in the Piccolo household.  Piccolo was offered a scholarship to Wichita State, but he chose to go to Wake Forest on a full athletic scholarship.  In 1964, Piccolo led the nation in rushing and scoring during his senior season; and was also named the ACC Player of the Year.  After his senior season he married his high school sweetheart; and they had 3 daughters.

In 1965, Piccolo entered the NFL Draft, but no one chose to draft him.  So he walked on as a free agent with the Chicago Bears.  He did not make the team right away, but he did make the scout team; so he could travel with the team, but he was not able to suit up for the game.  In 1966, he made the Chicago Bears final roster and started getting playing time.  He split time with a guy named Gale Sayers, which he ended up having a great relationship with.  Piccolo was used a lot on special teams, and in 1969, he was moved to the starting fullback position.  Gale Sayers and Piccolo were roommates when they traveled; which previously was not allowed because they had whites and blacks stay at different hotels.

In 1969 when Piccolo was the starting fullback, the Bears were having a terrible season and there was a game that Piccolo pulled himself out of the game.  Now that was very unusual because Piccolo was known to be a tough player.  He told the team doctors that he was having a hard time breathing.  After the doctors ran numerous tests they diagnosed him with embryonal cell carcinoma.  Piccolo went in for surgery to get the tumor removed, and in 1970 he had to go get his left lung and pectoral muscle removed.  He kept complaining of pains in his chest, and the doctors figured out that the cancer was spreading to his liver.  Brian Piccolo died in the hospital on June 16th, 1970; he was 26.  That same year Gale Sayers was being awarded the George S Halas Award; and Sayers declined to accept it so he could honor it to Brian Piccolo.

Piccolo has left a legacy behind him as well.  In 1972 the Brian Piccolo Middle School opened, in 1980 his alma mater began the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund in his memory, there is a Brian Piccolo Park that was constructed in his memory, and a movie named Brian’s Song so people know the story of Brian Piccolo.  Like I said before, he maybe was not the best athlete to ever play the game, but he shows people that even with cancer; you can fulfill your dreams.



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