For 48 years the Bears have honored the late Brian Piccolo - a man who had touched many lives before his untimely death due to cancer at 26 - by awarding two active players in the organization that exemplified his ideals. Since 1992, they have awarded both a veteran and rookie Bear that set the ideal precedent of Piccolo’s courage, loyalty, dedication, and teamwork. It’s an award voted exclusively by Bears teammates to be as accurate as possible, and the perfect way to kick off NFL Draft week.
This year, those two players are veteran runner Benny Cunningham and rookie sensation Tarik Cohen.
Cohen is no surprise for this Bears’ honor given the intense dedication he shows to excel on the football field despite his diminutive size at 5-foot-6. The 22-year-old is a small ball of lightning that works hard, and does it all with a smile on his face.
Meanwhile, Cunningham is a man who knows his role. As Chicago’s third running back, all he does is punch in, give max effort, and punch out. With no complaints. He’s a depth veteran with a tremendous amount of character to teach an entire roster about finding a place in the NFL and still proving to be useful.
Previous modern Piccolo Award winners have included Bears’ greats such as Matt Forte (2008 and 2015), Charles Tillman (2003, 2008, and 2013), and Olin Kreutz (2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2010). That’s hallowed company for Cohen and Cunningham to join, to say the least.
There are no two better faces for the Brian Piccolo Award now, at least according to the Bears closest to them, than Cohen and Cunningham. Excellent examples of perseverance, humility, and dedication.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football Weekly and The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.