Jordan Mills and Josh McCown were the Bears’ 2014 winners of the Brian Piccolo Award.
Each year, the team votes for a veteran and a rookie who “best exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor” of Piccolo, the former Bears player who died in 1970 from embryonal cell carcinoma. He was 26.
Mills started every game as a rookie and played every snap until he broke his foot prior to the season finale against the Packers. He played one series before leaving the game, a story his offensive line coach and coordinator Aaron Kromer told at Tuesday’s awards ceremony.
“Jordan Mills goes out to start his last regular season game of his rookie year, and the courage that this guy has: he breaks his foot in pregame,” Kromer said. “He shakes it off, he goes in, he tapes it, he comes back out and he plays. He comes off and he says, my foot’s broken. I said, ‘When did you break your foot?’ He says, ‘pregame.’ I said ‘how do you break your foot and play in the first series?’
“But that’s the courage that he exemplifies. That’s why the team chose him. He’s a great teammate.”
Kromer also commented on Mills’ roots, how the Louisiana Tech alum came from a small town south of New Orleans.
“He has the success, he has the work ethic, he had the dedication, the dedication to himself and to his family, the team,” Kromer said. “He has the courage to fight out of an area, swamp, that gets hurricanes, that has to fight through things that people in most of the world don’t deal with. And he takes that inner fortitude; becomes the fifth-round pick of the Chicago Bears, and we need a right tackle. Jordan Mills steps in at right tackle as a rookie, a fifth-round pick, starts every play until the Green Bay game; and he starts that game as well.”
Mills did his own research on Piccolo and his football story, discussing it while accepting his award.
“This award exemplifies a person who showed dedication, hard work, loyalty, sense of humor,” Mills said. “He always had a smile on his face, picked his teammates up whenever they needed it. For me to win this award, it’s a true blessing.”
McCown signed with the Buccaneers at the start of free agency and his close friend, Jay Cutler, accepted the award on McCown’s behalf. Cutler reflected on McCown spending extra time with rookies in the hotel last spring to help them learn the playbook.
“Josh didn’t know how to say ‘no’ when it came to helping people or extending himself. That’s a rare quality in this industry and a rare quality in people, especially in the world of selfies and hashtags,” Cutler said. “Josh genuinely cared about others, and you could see it every day in how he operated and how he extended himself. It’s impossible to replace a person like Josh McCown, but I couldn’t be happier for him on his next journey down in Tampa.”