Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Brian Piccolo ~ A Biography

Brian Piccolo on Findagrave

Louis Brian Piccolo

Birth: Oct. 31, 1943
Berkshire County
Massachusetts, USA

Death: Jun. 16, 1970
New York
New York County (Manhattan)
New York, USA

Professional Football Player. Famously not picked in the NFL draft after 20 rounds, "Pic", as he was often called, went on to make a career in the National Football League as a running back for the Chicago Bears, despite his small size and slow speed. What he lacked in the usual qualities of a football player he made up in determination and hard work. A letterman in a Fort Lauderdale, Florida High School, he attended Wake Forest University. During his senior year, 1964, he led the nation rushing. This fact may have led Chicago Bears coach George Halas to sign him as a free agent. Halas actually held a press conference to announce the fact. Although on the team, he spent the year of 1965 on the practice squad while the number four pick of that year, Gale Sayers, was chosen as Rookie of The Year. In 1966 he was active in all 14 games with 103 passes caught and 317 rushing yards. Although improved in his play each year it was a struggle for him to make the team. Piccolo and Gale Sayers, the "Kansas Comet", had become the first interracial roommates before the 1967 season. They soon became fast friends and fierce competitors. During the ninth game of the season in 1968 Sayers was felled by a knee injury that put him out for the season. Piccolo stepped in for the last five games and scored his first two NFL touchdowns, gained 450 yards and had 281 pass receptions. Piccolo helped his friend successfully return to the game by helping with his rehab. It was a physical as well as a mental job. He was determined not to win his spot on the team due to an injured player. When the season started in 1969, Piccolo was ready to prove his point, as Sayers had returned, fully recuperated. Suffering from a lingering cough Piccolo continued to play. A pre-season x-ray and physical exam had shown no problems. During a game on November 16th he took himself out of the game. Having never removed himself from the game the team managers and his friends and family were concerned. A rare cancer was diagnosed and treatment began. Although he was determined to continue playing football he was not able to overcome his disease. At the time treatments for such a rare disease were not available. Piccolo died at the Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York, at the age of 26. After his death the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund was founded. It began with a group of friends, teammates and family members. Through the efforts of the fund the cancer that took his life now has a better than 80 percent cure rate. A related cancer to Piccolos disease which the fund also supports, testicular cancer, now has a 95 percent cure rate. In 1991 the fund began supporting breast cancer research. Wake Forest University Students started the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund Drive in 1980 in his memory. As to this date, 2009, in the 29 years of the fund, they have raised over eight million dollars which they donate to the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Brian's life is chronicled in the book "Brian Piccolo: A Short Season" by Jeannie Morris. "Brian's Song", a film starring James Caan as Piccolo and Billy Dee Williams in the role of Gale Sayers was released in 1971. Gale Sayers documented his life and his story with Piccolo in the book "I Am Third". 

(bio by: Julie Karen Hancock (Cooper) Jackson) 

Cause of death: Embryonal Cell Carcinoma

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