All eyes may be on the upcoming drafts these days, but the Chicago Bears took some time away from draft talk to honor one of their own. Linebacker Nick Roach was named this year's Brian Piccolo Award winner. Roach was the veteran recipient, and teammate Stephen Paea won the award for rookie.
Roach came to the NFL as an undrafted free agent, and has been with the Bears since 2007. He was signed by Chicago off of the San Diego Chargers practice squad. He has put up solid numbers, with 61 tackles just last season.
It wasn't the number of tackles that clinched the award for roach. In true Piccolo style, it was his sportsmanship that won the Bears over. Linebackers coach Bob Babich spoke of Roach's professionalism at the award ceremony, saying "In our scheme, playing the 'SAM' linebacker you do not get provided the opportunities to make as many plays as some of the other players in the system statistically," Not every player in the league would keep quiet about having fewer chances to shine, but he has handled the situation with grace, and has played well no matter what might be asked of him.
Off of the field, Roach is a true example of a professional athlete that kids can look up to. In 2010, he decided to raise money for a child who died in a tragic sledding accident in Wisconsin. The boy was a diehard Bears fan, and Roach wanted to help raise funds for a scholarship fund in the boy's name. He challenged fans to try to beat his NCAA bracket for a $10 entry fee. This is just one example of how Roach has reached out to fans during his time with the team.
Nick Roach was born on the date that Brian Piccolo died; June 16. This detail was not lost on the linebacker, who said "This story kind of hit me hard thinking about who Brian Piccolo was. Getting all those facts about who he was, it's a big deal for me to win this, especially being voted by your teammates. It's a big honor to be up here and accept this."
It is a huge honor for a Chicago Bear to receive the award. Brian Piccolo's name is almost as revered as that of George Halas himself. Piccolo died of cancer in 1970, at the age of 26. The Brian Piccolo Award doesn't go to the player with the biggest name every year, but it goes to a player that has the character and dedication, among other things, that Piccolo embodied. Nick Roach is an excellent choice for the award.
Whitney Levon is a Chicago native whose dedication to the Bears goes back to her first football memory; the Bears' 1985 Super Bowl victory. She has been covering the Chicago Bears and other Chicago teams since 2010. You can follow her on Twitter @wlevon1.
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