Chicago Bears LB Jack Sanborn, RB David Montgomery win Brian Piccolo Awards

Piccolo Award has been voted on by Bears players since 1970

Chicago Bears linebacker Jack Sanborn defends against the New York Giants, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J.

LAKE FOREST – Bears linebacker Jack Sanborn and former Bears running back David Montgomery received the Brian Piccolo Award on Tuesday at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

The Piccolo Award is voted on by Bears players, who select one rookie and one veteran teammate who they feel best exemplified the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo.

Piccolo signed with the Bears as a rookie free agent in 1965, the same year the Bears drafted Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers. The two rookies, one white and one Black, became roommates and close friends. Piccolo supported Sayers through a knee injury, and Sayers supported Piccolo when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1969. Piccolo died in 1970 at age 26 from embryonal cell carcinoma. Their friendship is depicted in the 1971 movie “Brian’s Song.”

After Piccolo’s death, the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund was established to fight the disease and has since turned its attention to fighting breast cancer. Members of the Piccolo family were on hand to present the award Tuesday.

Sanborn, the rookie recipient from Lake Zurich, joins teammates Darnell Mooney and Khalil Herbert as former rookie winners of the award. Montgomery, who signed as a free agent with the Detroit Lions last month, was not present to receive the award. Montgomery is now a two-time winner of the award after earning the rookie honor in 2019.

Sanborn appeared in 14 games as a rookie, making six starts. He totaled 64 tackles, two sacks and five tackles for loss. He was one of the biggest surprise contributors after going undrafted in 2022. He signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent and made the 53-man roster out of training camp.

“It’s incredibly special,” Sanborn said of the award. “The guys that you go through every day with and they see you the most out of everyone, and then they’re the ones that vote for you on something. I think any award that is voted on by your teammates, by the players, holds a little more weight.”

Sanborn said he never looked at himself as an overachiever.

“This was always my goal, to be playing in the league here,” Sanborn said. “I wouldn’t call it overachieving. Some may just because of where you’re drafted and stuff like that. I think you just gotta earn everything.”

Montgomery played for the Bears for four seasons. He rushed for 801 yards and five touchdowns in 2022. Montgomery signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Lions in March.

Bears running backs coach David Walker accepted the award on behalf of Montgomery and shared a message from the former Bears running back.

“This is from David,” Walker said. “I enjoyed my time in Chicago playing for this great organization and this great fan base. I humbly accept this award and appreciate my teammates for allowing me to be mentioned in the same breath as Brian Piccolo, one of the greatest Bears of all.”

The award has been given to a Bears rookie since 1970 and expanded to include a veteran in 1992.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.