Linebacker TJ Edwards, tackle Darnell Wright win Bears’ annual Brian Piccolo Award

Award honors late Bears running back who died of cancer

Chicago Bears line backer TJ. Edwards brings down Carolina Panthers wide receiver Adam Thielen on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023 at Soldier Field.

LAKE FOREST – Bears linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi recently looked back at his scouting report from 2019 when linebacker TJ Edwards went undrafted out of Wisconsin.

“Great instincts, always around the ball, question if he has the speed to play in the NFL,” Borgonzi said he wrote of Edwards.

Over the past five years, Edwards found a spot for himself on an NFL roster, reached a Super Bowl with the Eagles and earned himself a second contract when he signed a three-year, $19.5 million deal with the Bears a year ago.

He had to take his own route, arguably a harder route, but he has found a place for himself in the NFL. His position coach Borgonzi couldn’t help but laugh at his own scouting report. Edwards’ teammates see the hard work that he has put in. Edwards and right tackle Darnell Wright became the latest recipients of the Bears’ Brian Piccolo Award on Tuesday at Halas Hall.

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.

“It’s humbling,” Edwards said. “Just kind of the way I was raised, to treat people right and try to do the right thing. Lord knows I’m not perfect, but I try to do those things every day. I think when it’s an award that’s voted on by your peers, it means all the more.”

It’s humbling. Just kind of the way I was raised, to treat people right and try to do the right thing.”

—  TJ Edwards, Bears linebacker

Like Edwards, Piccolo went undrafted. 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.

Edwards and Wright joined the Bears a year ago. Edwards signed as a free agent, while Wright was the No. 10 overall draft pick last year.

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.