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Brian Piccolo died 50 years ago today

Chicago Bears Football Star Brian Piccolo

(Original Caption) 6/16/1970-New York, New York- Picture shows a headshot of Chicago Bears running back, Brian Piccolo(shown in recent file photo), who died early 6/16 at Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases. Piccolo,26, had been out most of the last National Football season due to illness.

Bettmann Archive

We recently noted the 50-year anniversary of Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers’ memorable and moving speech regarding the illness that teammate Brian Piccolo was fighting. Fifty years ago today, Piccolo lost that battle.

The Bears’ website takes a look back at the life and career of Brian Piccolo.

Unselected in a 20-round draft in 1965, Piccolo joined the Bears after leading the nation in rushing and scoring at Wake Forest. At 5'11" and 195 pounds, Piccolo was regarded as too small to play fullback in the NFL.

Sayers and Piccolo became close friends and eventually roommates on the road. Their friendship was featured in Brian’s Song, a popular made-for-TV movie that debuted in 1971.

“He was so young to die, with a future that held so much for him,” Bears founder George Halas said at the time. “But Brian made the most of the brief 26 years allotted to him, and he will not be forgotten.”

A half-century later, he hasn’t been. More than $13 million has been raised for cancer research in his name. On this 50th anniversary of his passing, consider making a contribution of your own to the cause.