Why Bears' Robert Quinn honored to receive Brian Piccolo Award

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Why Brian Piccolo Award means so much to Robert Quinn originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Brian Piccolo Award is arguably the biggest honor in Halas Hall for a Bears player. Every year, the team votes for one rookie and one veteran who “best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo.” But the recognition is especially meaningful to this year’s veteran winner, Robert Quinn, given Quinn’s own serious health scares.

Quinn first learned about Piccolo when he won an award with the same name in college, in recognition of the ACC’s ‘most courageous’ player. He felt a kinship to Piccolo, since Piccolo fought through his cancer diagnoses, just as Quinn tried to make the most of life after doctors discovered a tumor on his brain when he was just 17.

“To hear what he had to overcome and how he approached things the same way, I just try to make the most out of today because tomorrow ain’t promised,” Quinn said. “Really I guess the way I kind of approach life after hearing from a doctor you’ve got a week to live, there ain’t too much that can bring you down after that.

“I remember looking at my mom for I don’t know how long, kind of disbelief. More in shock. I mean, you try being 17 and they tell you you got a week, but after a couple of days I kind of came to grips with it. I’m about to leave this world. So I was trying to go out as happy as possible and I guess from there on out, I just tried to live that same way because we all go though bad things, it’s just how you approach it and make the most out of your situation. So I’ve been blessed to still be here today and keep making positive of my situation.”

Similarly, Piccolo didn’t accept defeat when he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, embryonal cell carcinoma. He fought to the end, refusing to die quietly, and refusing to show the world how much of a struggle it was to go through chemotherapy.

“The first time I saw Brian after his original operation was Sunday, December 6th,” said Gale Sayers in Jeannie Morris’ biography, Brian Piccolo: A Short Season. “I flew into Chicago from San Francisco, where we’d played, changed planes and went right on to New York. Pic was in a beautiful mood. Really something. He was walking around. Showed me his scar, he was very proud of his scar, you know. It went from his neck almost to his navel and then across his left side below the sternum. He couldn’t help reminding me how rotten I’d been after my first knee operation. ‘Want to compare scars?’ He’d say.”

Piccolo died just over six months later, but Quinn has been able to live for years with his brain tumor. He’s lucky that his tumor was not malignant, but it’s still a reminder for Quinn to make the most of every day.

“You realize how short life can really be for you,” Quinn said. “Again, I was 17 with that scenario and again, didn't think I was going一 I didn't expect to see myself leaving that early but at the time I thought that was my path. Again, the powers above didn't have that written for me. Again, I tried to make the most of my situation, and again… it's just how you approach the things in life."

According to the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund, when Piccolo was diagnosed with embryonal cell carcinoma, it had a 100% fatality rate. But now, thanks to research funded in part by the fund, the disease has a 96% survival rate. Due to those incredible advances, the fund now directs its efforts towards finding a cure for breast cancer.

Since its inception in 1970, the fund has raised nearly $9.9 million for cancer research.

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