McClellin, Tillman and Peppers each receive Brian Piccolo Award
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org April 23, 2013 10:06PM
Soft-spoken Shea McClellin isn’t known for his rapier wit or gregarious sense of humor. But the Brian Piccolo Award seems to bring out the best in everybody.
‘‘When I got dressed this morning, I realized I look like a college professor,’’ McClellin, a bit underdressed in a sportcoat, tie and blue jeans said to laughter at the Bears’ annual awards ceremonly at the Mugs Halas Auditorium. ‘‘Sorry about that — I should have worn my slacks.’’
McClellin was typically humble and understated in accepting the Piccolo award, along with veteran teammates Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman, on Tuesday.
‘‘[The Piccolo Award] means a lot,’’ said McClellin, the 19th overall pick in last year’s draft. ‘‘I’m very honored and blessed just to be in this position. To be up here with Julius and Charles and for our teammates to vote for us for this award, it means a lot.’’
The Brian Piccolo Award has been presented since 1970 to the Bears rookie who exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of Brian Piccolo, the Bears running back who died of cancer in 1970. The organization added a veteran winner in 1992.
McClellin, the 19th overall pick in last year’s draft, has many of the qualities that define the award, said Bears defensive line coach Mike Phair, who introduced McClellin at the ceremony.
‘‘Humility — he doesn’t sit there and bring a lot of attention to himself,’’ Phair said. ‘‘When we’re out doing drill work, holding bags, he’s the first guy helping us out. He still does that today.
‘‘Courage and loyalty — those are two things I saw in him [when the Bears scouted him last year]. The first season is rough, but he battled through, keeps his nose down and keep working. And he never complains.
‘‘He’s very observant and a great listener. He’s a guy that’s listening to everything you’re saying and watching everything the veterans are doing. He doesn’t say a whole lot.’’
Like most Bears players, McClellin learned about Piccolo since joining the Bears. Though it has been 44 years since Piccolo last played for the Bears, McClellin said he has a fine appreciation for Piccolo and his legacy with the Bears.
‘‘We know about him and he has that movie about him [Brian’s Song],’’ McClellin said. ‘‘You can learn a lot from the good old days.’’
Tillman, who won the award for the third time, and Peppers both were appreciative of the fact that the award is voted upon by their teammates.
‘‘It’s humbling and a privilege to have my name added to the list of recipients who have won this award,’’ Peppers said. ‘‘You look at this list and see a great group of football players, but more importantly a great group of people.
‘‘As I learned about Mr. Piccolo — the teamwork, loyalty and dedication and friendship resonated with me. That’s something we all strive for in our career and our personal life. That along with his commitment to the people that were around him. One day I can only hope to be viewed in that same light and have the respect and integrity that he had.’’
The Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund has provided $8.2 million for cancer research, according to Traci Piccolo Dolby, one of Brian Piccolo’s three daughters, who attended the awards ceremony with her mother, Joy Piccolo O’Connell, and her sister, Kristi.
The Bears presented a check for $50,000 from National Football League Charities to the Brian Piccollo Cancer Fund.
‘‘This is wonderful. Congratulations to each of [the award winners],’’ Joy Piccolo O’Connell said. ‘‘I’m very proud of this award. It means a great deal to all of us. I’m especially grateful to the Chicago Bears, the NFL and especially to Virginia McCaskey and her family. They have made this [cause] continue for many, many years and we will always be totally committed to finding a cure for cancer.’’