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Brian Piccolo
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Football Player
    (October 31, 1943-June 16, 1970)
    Chicago Bears Running Back (1965-69)
    Birth name was Louis Brian Piccolo
    Died of rare embryonic cell carcinoma cancer at age 26
    Profiled in 'Brian's Song'
    He was the leading rusher in the nation during his senior year at Wake Forest in 1964, yet in 1965 when he turned pro he was not drafted (280 picks without interest). Scouts labeled him 'too small' and 'too slow.'
    He was picked to be on the Bears' practice squad as an insurance policy if anything happened to their star rookie running back, Gale Sayers.
    In the 1966 season, he played in all 14 games, but rushed just 3 times for 12 yards.
    The only football card on him is his 'rookie' card that came in his last season.
    If that was not bad enough, they misspelled his name twice on the card, spelling it 'Bryon' on the front and 'Bryan' on the back.
    He got his chance to prove himself only after his friend and teammate Sayers suffered a horrific knee injury.
    It was shortly afterwards he received his cancer diagnosis, ending a career that never had a chance to take off.
    The cancer that claimed his life was almost 100% fatal at the time, but modern medicine and early detection makes it now almost 100% curable.
    He and Sayers were the first interracial roommates in pro football.
    His cancer was caused by uncontrolled embryonic cells left over during fetal development.
    In four months since he had a clear chest x-ray taken, a tumor the size of a grapefruit had developed.
    When Sayers broke the news to the Bears, they dedicated the game against the Baltimore Colts to him, and lost 24-21 (November 23, 1969).
    He had to endure chemo, radiation, a mastectomy and the removal of tumors, lymph nodes and his left lung, all to no avail.
    He gave motivational speeches for a variety of organizations, bringing a friend with him who happened to be an undertaker.
    After his passing, an impromptu fundraising group comprising of his NFL teammates, friends and family members formed and began what is now a successful nonprofit organization; the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund.
    His number 41 is one of the retired jersey numbers in the Chicago Bears franchise.
    The story of his cancer battle and friendship with Sayers has been made into a popular made-for-TV movie, 'Brian's Song (1971),' starring James Caan as Piccolo and Billy Dee Williams as Sayers.
    30 years later it was remade starring Sean Maher as Piccolo and Mekhi Phifer as Sayers (2001).

Credit: Scar Tactics

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