Piccolo, born to be a Bear

While Brian Piccolo's story is well known for what he went through after coming to the Bears, the way he ended up in Chicago can stand on it's own.

Chuck Mather, who was the Bears offensive coordinator from 1958 to 1965, started scouting following the '65 season.

"At the time, I had a good friend who knew a lot about football," Mather said. "His son was a fine player at Wake Forest. My friend went to see his son play quite often. One time, he happened to notice Brian Piccolo, who was one of his son's friends on the team."

Shortly after Mather's friend told him of Piccolo and the scout decided it was worth looking in to. Mather researched Piccolo and saw the impressive numbers that the running back put up at Wake Forest, but no one outside of the conference knew of his ability.

"Game after game, Brian had a number of plays that went for impressive gains yardage," Mather said. "Then I found one or two instances of him fumbling. I knew that anybody who could carry the ball that often but never lose it had to have something special."

Mather recalls when he met Piccolo that he had all the makings of a Bear. However, the Bears legendary coach, George Halas, was skeptical.

"Too small, too slow, not enough talent," he said.

Shortly after Piccolo injured his leg playing in a college all-star game and had a recurring problem with Charlie horses. When he came to the Bears as a free agent who was looking for a tryout, Halas definitely wasn't interested. He wouldn't even put Piccolo on the 30-man taxi squad.

"Brian didn't say much but we did notice that every day he was out there on the field just running laps, trying to get his leg in shape," Mather said. "It was amazing. Nobody told him to do that. He was all alone and he kept running and running, day after day. Eventually Coach Halas noticed and said 'that kid's got heart. How much do you think I'd have to pay him?'

The agreed upon sum was a grand total of $8500. In retrospect it was that Charlie horse that got Brian on the team.

"If he'd had a tryout with the rest of the players, I don't think he would have made the squad," Mather said. "It took time for the coaches to realize how great his desire was to play professional football and how hard he was willing to work on his skills to reach that goal. That was a lesson for all of us."

Bear Report Top Stories