Gale Sayers, Hall of Fame running back for the Chicago Bears was also known for his friendship with a fellow player, Brian Piccolo, who was battling cancer as Sayers was coming back from a rather serious knee injury.
The movie, Brian’s Song was based on that friendship, and it typified what I’m trying to talk about today.
Each had their own struggles to get back to the game, and in Brian Piccolo’s case, the struggle was for his life.
They constantly pushed each other, lifting each other up when they were down, and putting aside their own agendas for the sake of the others.
In one particular incident, Gale Sayers brought up Brian’s name. I’m quoting now from his book, I am Third.
At the end of May I came into New York to attend the Professional Football Writers annual dinner and receive the George S. Halas award as the most courageous player in pro football. I had wanted Brian to attend with me if he was strong enough, but the day I arrived in New York was the day Brian and Joy left the hospital to go back home. He had finished a series of cobalt treatments and the doctors said he could spend a few weeks at home, then return to the hospital for more treatment.
One reason I wanted Brian with me at the banquet was that I intended to give him the trophy right there. But at least I was able to tell the audience something about Brian Piccolo.
"He has the heart of a giant, "I said, "and that rare form of courage that allows him to kid himself and his opponent, cancer. He has the mental attitude that makes me proud to have a friend who spells out the word courage twenty-four hours a day of his life."
I concluded by saying, "You flatter me by giving me this award but I can tell you here and now that I accept it for Brian Piccolo. Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who should receive the George S. Halas award. Mine is tonight, it is Brian Piccolo’s tomorrow ... I love Brian Piccolo and I’d like all of you to love him, too. Tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him ..."
From "I am Third" by Gale Sayers with Al Silverman. Copyright (r) Gale Sayers and Al Silverman 1970 and 2001.
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