Three members of the Bears defense – Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers as the veterans, Shea McClellin as the rookie – were honored on Tuesday as winners of the prestigious annual Brian Piccolo award, given every year to the rookie and veteran who best exemplify the character and principles of the late Bears running back.
Tillman, winning a Piccolo award for the third time, has become one of the most decorated Bears for his off-field works for charity, including being one of the finalists for the 2011 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
“Because this is an award voted on by my teammates and peers, it really means a lot to me,” Tillman said.
“I got dressed and I realized a look like a college professor,” said McClellin, in a suit for presumably one of the rare times since being introduced in the Halas Hall meeting room as the Bears’ No. 1 pick.
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Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker introduced Peppers and was clear: “The respect that people have for Julius Peppers is because of his work ethic.,” citing Peppers’ work in practice and “taking notes like a rookie” in meetings.
Tucker’s first impressions of Peppers included, besides the size of Peppers’ hand, the realization that he may never again have the opportunity to coach a player of Peppers’ caliber.
“We’ve got to find a way to get this guy a championship,” Tucker added.
Peppers, talking through a cold and sore throat, was clearly moved by the prospect of having his name added to the list of Piccolo winners.
And as he has studied the history of Piccolo himself, “One day I can only hope to be viewed in that light,” Peppers said.