The Chicago Bears paid special tribute to Brian Piccolo on Thursday, as all 90 players wore No. 41 jerseys during their minicamp practice. Piccolo, a Bears running back from 1966 to 1969, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1969 and passed away at just 26 years old in 1970.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus thought it was important for his team to reflect on Piccolo’s legacy and addressed the players before practice.
“To honor the legacy and family of Brian Piccolo, that was the main message. Sometimes it’s hard for people, or anybody, to go back so far, and it’s hard sometimes to to see the impact that Brian Piccolo had in the late 60s,” Eberflus told reporters Thursday. “He was a really good teammate, he liked to have fun with his teammates, liked to play practical jokes on ’em. Just a real man, a real person and a Chicago Bear.”
Every year, the Bears give out the Brian Piccolo Award to one rookie and one veteran who “best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor” of Piccolo. Running back Khalil Herbert and linebacker Robert Quinn received the honor last April.
Piccolo’s family, including his widow and three daughters, were welcomed as special guests at Halas Hall on Thursday. The Bears originally planned to do this gesture for the 50th anniversary of Piccolo’s death, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back two years.