You might think that Brian Piccolo is on this list simply for the relationship with Gale Sayers that was immortalized in the film Brian’s Song, but he truly is the best choice. There were only three others since 1950 that wore the number before him and Piccolo’s stats are just better. He was a decent back during his short career and worked his way into the starting lineup as a fullback behind Sayers at tailback. After mysteriously leaving a game voluntarily in November 1969, a diagnosis revealed that he had embryonal cell carcinoma, a cancer that eventually spread to his liver. Seven months later, Piccolo was gone. His memory lives on in the form of the Brian Piccolo Award, an honor given each year to a member of the Bears that “best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor”. And of course, there’s the movie that no matter when or where you watch it, that room gets a little dusty. Piccolo’s #41 is retired.
1966: 14 games, 3 carries, 12 yards
1967: 14 games, 87 carries, 317 yards—13 receptions, 103 yards
1968: 14 games, 123 carries, 450 yards, 2 TD—28 receptions, 291 yards
1969: 9 games, 45 carries, 148 yards, 2 TD—17 receptions, 143 yards—9 punt returns, 43 yards