We had so much fun doing our Countdown to Kickoff series last season that we decided to do it again. In case you’re new to the series, we’ll do a roster preview as we count down the days until the Chicago Bears September 7th season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
41 more days. Camp has started and it has been intense. Our guys fighting and itching to prove to the world that we are the champions (queue Queen music.)
Our #41 is Brian Piccolo. His number has been retired and you’ll never see another Bear wearing it.
Brian Piccolo led the nation in rushing and scoring his senior year at Wake Forest. Unfortunately, he went undrafted the following year. He tried out for the Bears and got the gig. He would be a member of their practice squad.
As a running back, on a team with Gayle Sayers, he didn’t see much playing time until Sayers injured his knee.
Brian Piccolo and Gayle Sayers roomed together at road games at a time when players were still segregated in the NFL. It was very public and the nation watched to see how it would work.
They joked about it, as they were already good friends. Their sense of humor and willingness to share about it, played a big part in swaying public opinion about a very touchy subject.
I have seen both versions of the movie Brian’s Song. It tells a great story about two of our most beloved Bears. If you only watch one, stick with the 1971 original. They remade it in 2001.
In 1969, Brian Piccolo was diagnosed with embryonal cell carcinoma (testicular cancer) after having difficulty breathing. Two separate surgeries could not save him, he died on June 16th, 1970. He was only 26.