T.J. Edwards

Darnell Wright, T.J. Edwards named Bears 2023 Brian Piccolo Award winners

More on the award and why it's so important to the Bears

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The Bears announced on Tuesday that right tackle Darnell Wright and weakside linebacker T.J. Edwards are last season’s recipients of the team’s Brian Piccolo Award.

Since 1970, the team has recognized two players each year– one rookie and one veteran– who best exemplify Piccolo’s courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor. Piccolo was a running back for the Bears from 1966 until 1970, when he died of cancer at age 26. He was known for being an excellent teammate and his good natured spirit, even in the face of adversity. Piccolo and fellow running back Gale Sayers are also known for breaking a color barrier in the NFL. They were the first integrated roommates for an NFL team.

Wright admitted he didn’t know much about Piccolo when he first joined the Bears, but when he learned more there were things about Piccolo that he wanted to emulate.

“Definitely how selfless he was, I feel myself as a selfless person just trying to put the team first,” Wright said.

Offensive line coach Chris Morgan shared more about why Wright was selected for the award.

“When he walks into a room, the room lights up. I’m thankful, I enjoy working with Darnell every day. His spirit is contagious and it’s kinda perfect and fitting that he’s getting this award because there are so many parallels between Brian, how he lived and what he stood for, how he interacted with his teammates, the passion that he brought, how he made everyone around him better– Darnell, he does all of those things.”

Edwards grew up in Lake Villa, Illinois, so he was more familiar with Piccolo’s legacy.

“It’s humbling,” Edwards said about winning the award. “Just kinda 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. That’s the people you come to work with every day. It makes that special.”

“T.J. is the model of consistency every day,” said linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi. “He comes in with a great attitude. T.J. hasn’t missed a practice since he got here, which is pretty remarkable. He hasn’t missed a snap, hasn’t missed a practice… He’s what you want in a linebacker.”

Following Piccolo’s death, the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund was established to help research embryonal cell carcinoma. That’s the type of cancer that afflicted Piccolo, and at the time of his death it had a 100% fatality rate. Now, this particular cancer has a 96% survival rate, so the Piccolo Research Fund benefits breast cancer research. Since turning its attention to breast cancer in 1991, the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund has raised $10 million for research.

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