Tillman, Kreutz named '03 Piccolo Award Winners

LAKE FOREST, IL – Days for the draft the Bears took timeout to honor the memory of Brian Piccolo and Ed McCaskey by naming Charles Tillman and Olin Kreutz as the 2003 Piccolo Award winners.

The honor, which was started by the late Ed McCaskey, has been given to a Bears rookie since 1970 and was expanded in 1992 to include a veteran winner. Bears players' vote for the rookie and veteran who best exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo.

"Whenever I think of Brian Piccolo, I remember a time when Bill George called my father (Ed McCaskey) down to the golf course he ran with Mike Ditka," said Director of Special Operations Pat McCaskey. "Bill told my father that he wouldn't be returning to the Bears the coming year. He then showed my father a dog and said 'a young rookie, Brian Piccolo took this dog, which was near starvation, and nursed him back to health. I won't be around to take care of Brian, but I want you to look out for him for me. There's something about him that's special. My father said 'well that's fine, but I'm not in charge of the team. Bill said' don't worry, you'll find a way.' and he did."

Ever since then, the McCaskey family has had a close relationship with the Piccolos that we are delighted has continued to this day. I know that the work of the foundation was very meaningful to my parents. We are proud to continue this effort on behalf of Brian."

Kreutz is the 12th veteran to win the award. Kreutz has been named to start the Pro Bowl for the NFC in each of the last three years. He also earned Pro Bowl alternate status in his first two seasons as a starter. He has started 70 games over the last five years, including a current streak of 22 games, which would be 48 games if were not for an emergency appendectomy in 2002. A full-time starter since the beginning of his second NFL season, Kreutz has played more games as a Bear than all but two of his current teammates.

"You know that it took a lot for me to get into a tie today. I asked coach Shea if maybe I could get away wearing a tie and a T-shirt but he said no, so here I am. I think it's been at least four years since I've looked as dressed up as this," said Kreutz joking about his formal attire for the event.

"The Piccolo award means a lot to me because of the characteristics it celebrates- loyalty, a sense of humor, and never giving up no matter what the odds. To me, these are the characteristics that every good offensive lineman should have as well. The fact that this was voted by my teammates makes it special."

Tillman, a second-round selection of Louisiana-Lafayette in the 2003 Draft, was named Sports Illustrated's Rookie of the Year for 2003 after tying for the NFL interception lead among all rookies with four while starting 13 of 16 games at cornerback. The first Bears rookie to lead the team in picks in 13 years, Tillman also led the team with 10 pass defenses and ranked second among all Bears defensive backs with 89 tackles. The NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year selection by Football Digest recorded his first career interception in his fourth career start, beginning a personal streak of three interceptions in a span of four games.

When last year's rookie recipient, Alex Brown, learned Tillman that had won the award he made a point for his teammate to watch Brian's Song, which captures the triumph of Piccolo's story.

"Heartbreaking, it was pretty sad," Tillman said of the newer version of the movie. "I was little teary eyed. It hit me pretty hard."

"I knew a little bit about him, I didn't know too much, so Alex Brown told me you need to watch it. It'll mean a little bit more to you after watching the movie."

In all, 45 different Bears have won the award including three on the current roster: Alex Brown (2002) Anthony Thomas (2001), Brian Urlacher (2000) and Jerry Azumah (1999).

Brian Piccolo joined the Bears in 1965, following a senior season at Wake Forest during which he led the nation in scoring (111 points) and rushing (1,044 yards). Piccolo was not selected in the NFL draft, but he signed with the Bears as a free agent and made the club. He was in his fourth season when a chest x-ray revealed a malignancy. Several months later on June 16, 1970, he died at age 26 from embryonal cell carcinoma. At the time Piccolo died, the disease was 100% fatal, but today the cure rate is 95%. He left behind his wife Joy, three daughters, and legions of friends.

Proceeds from the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund benefit breast cancer research at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital and the Clearbrook Center for the developmentally disabled in Rolling Meadows.

Past Winners
1970 Glen Holloway (G)
1971 Jerry Moore (S)
1972 Jim Osborne (DT)
1973 Wally Chambers (DT)
1974 Fred Pagac (TE)
1975 Roland Harper (RB)
1976 Brian Baschnagel (WR)
1977 Ted Albrecht (T)
1978 John Skibinski (RB)
1979 Dan Hampton (DE)
1980 Bob Fisher (TE)
1981 Mike Singletary (LB)
1982 Jim McMahon (QB)
1983 Jim Covert (T)
1984 Shaun Gayle (DB)
1985 Kevin Butler (K)
1986 Neal Anderson (RB)
1987 Ron Morris (WR)
1988 James Thornton (TE)
Mickey Pruitt (LB)
1989 Trace Armstrong (DE)
1990 Mark Carrier (S)
1991 Chris Zorich (DT)
1992 Mike Singletary (LB)
Troy Auzenne (T)
1993 Tom Waddle (WR)
Myron Baker (LB)
Todd Perry (T)
1994 Shaun Gayle (S)
Raymont Harris (RB)
1995 Erik Kramer (QB)
Rashaan Salaam (RB)
1996 Chris Zorich (DT)
Bobby Engram (WR)
1997 Ryan Wetnight (TE)
John Allred (TE)
Van Hiles (S)
1998 Bobby Engram (WR)
Tony Parrish (S)
1999 Marcus Robinson (WR)
Jerry Azumah (CB)
2000 Brian Urlacher (LB)
Clyde Simmons (DE)
2001 Anthony Thomas (RB)
James Williams (T)
2002 Alex Brown (DE)
Phillip Daniels (DE)
2003 Charles Tillman (CB)
Olin Kreutz (C)

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