The Chicago Bears paid a special tribute to Brian Piccolo on Thursday, as all 90 players wore No. 41 jerseys during their minicamp practice. Piccolo, a running back for the Bears from 1966 to 1969, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1969 and died aged just 26 in 1970.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus felt it was important for his team to reflect on Piccolo’s legacy and addressed the players before practice.
“Honoring Brian Piccolo’s legacy and family, that was the main message. Sometimes it’s hard for people, or anyone, to go back so far, and sometimes it’s hard to see the impact that Brian Piccolo had in the late ’60s,” Eberflus told reporters on Thursday. “He was a really good teammate, he liked to have fun with his teammates, liked to prank them. Just a real man, a real person and a Chicago Bear.”
Each year, the Bears award the Brian Piccolo Award to a rookie and a veteran who “best exemplifies Piccolo’s courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor”. 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 make the gesture on the 50th anniversary of Piccolo’s death, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back two years.