Brian Piccolo, one of the greatest athletes in Wake Forest history died of cancer June 16 in New York's Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases. He was buried three days later in Saint Mary's Cemetery in Chicago after a requiem Mass at Christ the King Roman Catholic Church.

The 26-year-old football star is survived by his wife, Joy, and three young daughters. He is also survived by lingering admiration for his courageous spirit, which was evidenced even more in his final battle against death than in his life's many contests on the football field. The University athletic department plans to establish some sort of memorial, although the details hate not get been worked out.

Excerpts from a few of the many tributes to Piccolo are reprinted on this page.


As I walked into the funeral home where he was lying in state, I noticed a license plate BP 41. Those numbers made me realize what a source of joy Brian Piccolo was in the community of Winston-Salem.

BP 41 is symbolic of the dare which this courageous young man possessed. He had a ready and winning smile. and eyes which penetrated the existence of all his friends and teammates....

BP 41 touched my heart, and I only hope his mark will help create more great athletes who will help make this world a better place in which to live.


It's almost impossible to believe Brian Piccolo is dead. "Pic" fought and won so many battles in his short life that we all thought somehow, he'd manage another miracle and win this battle, too.

I first met Pic in the fall of 1964 when I was a freshman at Wake Forest University. Wake isn't the biggest place in the world, but it's big enough to cause a naive, somewhat frightened freshman suffering through his first college registration to get lost.

There were a lot of upperclassmen around the registration area greeting each other and reviewing the just-past summer. All the footballers were there hurrying to register before reporting for a hot September afternoon practice.

One well-tanned, dark-haired senior player took time out to help this lost freshman. He wasn't asked to help he just walked over, noticing with a grin the obviously confused look on my face, and volunteered to show me around.

I didn't know the guy's name at the time, but someone told me that he was Brian Piccolo, Wake's senior fullback and that I'd be hearing a lot from Pic during the football season. I did hear a lot from Pic, too, and the more I heard and saw, the more I respected the man that wore the old gold and black jersey with the number 31 across the front of it

I remember the announcement late in 1969 that Pic would miss the remaining five games because of surgery to remove a growth in his chest This was a shock to his fans, but we were used to seeing Pic winning battles. We were sure he would win this one, too.

Thus, Tuesday's announcement of his death was even more of a shock for us. Somehow, though, I like to think that Pic won this battle, too. Death might have taken Brian Piccolo from this life, but Pic was a winner throughout his life.

He must have been a winner in death too.



Brian Piccolo was a hero of mine. Oh, not a hero in the legendary, flawless sense, but a hero in the sixties when it hasn't been easy to achieve or maintain hero status.

I had classes with Pic, ate at the training table with him and belonged to the Monogram Club with him. We were never close friends, but it made being in the Monogram Club, playing a sport for Wake Forest, a little more special because Pic was doing the same things. Brian was a year ahead of me, but I think I'd have felt the same way if the situation had been reversed. You've met people like that -- there is a special awe that surrounds them, isolates them.... Pic had the kind of zest for life, appreciation for tradition. and reverence for the game he loved that kids used to look up to. Perhaps hero worship is childish. If it is, then I'm childish, for Pic was a hero of mine, and I, along with thousands of other alumni, will miss him immeasurably.

To an Athlete Dying Young


The death of young athletes carries an added burden of grief that one so young, so full of vitality and strength loses in the struggle for life.

Brian Piccolo, who was a football player of All-American stature at Wake Forest, is dead at the age of 26. Piccolo was the tougher-than-nails back, the gutsy player who faced a line which towered over him, and ground out the yardage time and time again. The greatness of his playing dramatizes the irony of his death: young Piccolo seemed so durable, so sturdy that he was the man invariably called on to get the first down. When Brian was a senior he led the nation in scoring as a back and in rushing. He was voted ACC Player of the Year. In this past decade when football success was at low ebb for Wake Forest, the name and record of Brian Piccolo almost alone added victory and lustre. After graduation he broke into the pro line-up signing as a free agent with the Chicago Bears.

Fans watched him on and off the football field. On Saturday afternoons he brought crowds to their feet with his runs. But all during the week at Wake Forest he was admired and loved by his classmates, some of whom admitted to outright hero-worship He was an immensely popular student, an outstanding speaker; his appearance in theatre productions always gave audiences the special pleasure of seeing a fine athlete become a real artist. A classmate recalls with particular tenderness Piccolo's being moved almost to tears by a reading of Wordsworth's "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood."

Piccolo's Bear teammate, Gale Sayers, perhaps voiced the most fitting epitaph last month when he was presented an award as pro football's most courageous player by the New York Football Writers. The trophy should not have gone to him at all, Sayers said, it should have gone to Brian Piccolo. "Compare his courage with that I am supposed to possess." Sayers told the writers, then later gave the trophy to Piccolo.

Brian Piccolo lost the final battle to cancer, but throughout his young life he played the classic role of a winner. His immortality is etched in the memories of those who cheered him, of his wife and young children who survive, in the records he established for the school he loved, and in the strength and character of all young athletes who are brave both in victory and in loss.


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