Am I the Only One That Didn’t Know this NFL Legend was Born in Pittsfield?
With the Super Bowl days away, I was curious how many NFL players were born in the Berkshires. Not being a native of Western Mass I was blown away to discover the main character in one of the saddest movies I ever saw was about the tragic real-life story of Brian Piccolo.
Brian was born on October 31, 1943, to Irene and Joseph Piccolo. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the family moved from Pittsfield to Fort Lauderdale a few years after Brian’s birth in 1946.
Piccolo played football at Wake Forest. He was never selected in the NFL draft but was signed by the Chicago Bears as a free agent in 1965 according to Wikipedia. He played four seasons at running back for the Bears from 1966 to 1969 before passing away from embryonal cell carcinoma in 1970 at the age of 26. The Bears retired Piccolos #41 in 2018. During his career, Piccolo played a total of 51 games, ran for 927 yards, and scored four touchdowns according to the pro-football-reference website.
Immortalized in the 1971 movie “Brian’s Song” Piccolo was played by James Cann. The movie chronicles Piccolo's close friendship with the Bears' standout starting running back Gale Sayers. According to Wikipedia, the movie is based on Gale Sayers’ autobiography. In the movie, Gayle Sayers was played by Billy Dee Williams.
The movie not only depicts the friendship between two players in competition for the same position, but it also breaks down racial barriers between white and black and how true bonds and acts of courage develop during the most difficult and tragic times.
As a 10-year-old watching this movie for the first time I broke down in tears and have every time since. I always knew the movie Brian Song was a real-life story, but today discovering Brian Piccolo was born in Pittsfield the story became that much more real.