When racial segregation was rampant across America, a true friendship developed between two men. One man was black, and the other was white. Both men were star football players for the Chicago Bears. As true friends often do, both men helped each other on and off the football field. Since love is much more powerful than hate, true friendship conquers all. This is the true story of Louis Brian Piccolo and Gale Eugene Sayers.
When Louis Brian Piccolo and Gale Eugene Sayers were friends, there was segregation in the NFL. Not only did both of these players break records on the football field, they also helped tear down the walls of segregation. In 1967, Sayers and Piccolo became the first interracial roommates for the NFL. Overcoming various racial divisions in the NFL, Running back was the only position on the Bears with one black man, Sayer, and one white player, Piccolo.
Like in any true friendship, Sayers and Piccolo helped each other during their troubled times. When Sayers hurt his knee and was unable to play in 1968, Piccolo backed him as starting tailback. He was also there to help Sayers during his rehabilitation. When Piccolo received his cancer diagnosis in 1969, Sayers was there to support him. Despite all of his courage, Piccolo did not win the battle against cancer. He died on June 16, 1970 when he was just 26 years old.
Born on October 31, 1943, Piccolo had a short but remarkable career as a football player. During his senior year at Wake Forest, he led the nation in rushing and scoring in 1964. Even though he was a great football player, he faced obstacles as he tried to get a good position in the Chicago Bears. In 1965, he was a free agent for the Chicago Bears. He was permitted to practice but not to suit up for the games.
Eventually becoming a Running back for the Chicago Bears, 1968 was the best year of his career. The statistics of his football feats are absolutely amazing. He made 450 yards on 123 carries (a 3.7 average), two touchdowns and 28 receptions for 291 yards (a 10.4 average).
Piccolo’s winning streak continued in 1969. He began the scoring at Wrigley field with a 25-yard touchdown reception. During the following week in Atlanta, he scored a fourth quarter touchdown on a one yard run. Despite his accomplishment, he left the game because he did not feel well. Unfortunately, his prognosis was cancer. He would never be able to return to the field, but he was always there in spirit for his teammates.
When Gale Sayers accepted the George S. Halas Award for Most Courageous Players, he was not thinking of himself. Instead, he was thinking of his best friend Piccolo. He mentioned Piccolo in his acceptance speech and thought that Piccolo was the one who really deserved the award for his courage.
In addition to having a true friendship with Piccolo, Sayers was an exceptional football player. Born on May 30, 1943 in Wichita, Kansas and raised in Omaha Nebraska, he played for the Chicago Bears from 1965 to 1971.
After he graduated from Omaha Central High School, he decided to play college football at the University of Kansas. In 1963, Sayers set an NCAA Division IFBS record with a 99-yard run against Nebraska.
In the 1965 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears recruited him. During his rookie year, he scored a record 22 touchdowns. On November 3, 1968, Sayers had the best game of his career against the Green Bay Packers. He carried 24 times for 205 yards.
After Sayers retired from professional football in 1972, his greatness was never forgotten. Nicknamed “Kansas Comet,” he was a very fast runner on the football field. He finished a 100-yard dash in just 9.7 seconds. Many football players said that he was the hardest player to tackle due to his speed and agility. Even today, he still holds the record for scoring at least six touchdowns in a game.
During his glory days as a football player, Sayers helped eradicate racial barriers. He became the first African-American athlete to be elected into the Lincoln Journal’s Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame. In 1977, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. When he was inducted into the Pro-Football hall of Fame in 1977, he became the youngest player ever to acquire that honor at the age of 34.
Today Sayers is a successful businessman. He is the chairman of his own company, Sayers 40, Inc. He will always remember his days in the limelight when he was a star player for the Chicago Bears. His autobiography, I Am Third Backer is the story of his football career and his special friendship with Brian Piccolo. Published in 1970, this book became the inspiration for the television film, Brian’s Song.