Fifty-two years after his tragic passing, Brian Piccolo’s legacy is still being celebrated by the Chicago Bears.
On the anniversary of Piccolo’s death Thursday, all 90 players at the Bears’ final day of mandatory minicamp donned the running back’s No. 41 jersey to honor his memory.
“It just blew me away, it really did,” Joy Piccolo O’Connell, Brian’s widow, said of the tribute, via the team website’s Larry Mayer. “It means a great deal to all of us. It’s just a very special tribute, it really is.”
On this day 52 years ago we lost Brian Piccolo.
Today, all 90 players are wearing 41 to honor him. pic.twitter.com/OFLIfKAJoJ
Piccolo O’Connell was one of roughly 20 members of the Piccolo family who attended Thursday’s practice, including each of Brian and Joy’s daughters — Lori, Traci and Kristi, according to the team website.
Piccolo played parts of four seasons with the Bears from 1966-1969. His career and life were cut short due to cancer, as Piccolo died at the age of 26 following his battle with embryonal cell carcinoma.
Thursday’s honor was originally planned to take place in 2020, which marked the 50th anniversary of Piccolo’s passing. However, offseason practices were canceled then due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Piccolo, an undrafted free agent out of Wake Forest, has long been lauded for his determination, courage and the example he set as a teammate.
The Bears have retired his number and each year give out the Brian Piccolo Award, bestowed upon the Chicago player voted by teammates to best exemplify the “courage, loyalty, teamwork and sense of humor” of Piccolo. He has, of course, also been captured for every autumn to come in Brian’s Song, a 1971 film in which James Caan portrays Piccolo and Billy Dee Williams plays Piccolo’s Hall of Fame teammate Gale Sayers.
On this Thursday, as the 2022 Bears concluded their minicamp, Piccolo’s memory and legacy carried on.
“It’s just really special for all of us that the Bears continue to honor him the way they do,” Piccolo’s daughter, Traci Piccolo Dolby, said. “It just makes us feel so good.”
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