Receiving a Brian Piccolo Award Tuesday at Halas Hall had special significance for Bears veteran Robert Quinn, given his cancer scare as a teenager.
When Quinn was a 17-year-old high school senior, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and informed that he likely had only a week to live.
"I remember looking at mom for I don't know how long, kind of [in] disbelief," Quinn recalled Tuesday. "More in shock. You try being 17 and they tell you you've 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."
Quinn underwent surgery and the tumor turned out to be benign rather than malignant as doctors feared. The tumor remains in Quinn's brain, but the experience gave him a new lease and perspective on life.
"From there on out, I just tried to live that same way because we all go through bad things; it's just how you approach it and make the most out of your situation," Quinn said. "I've been blessed to still be here today and keep making positive of my situation."
A year after his cancer scare, Quinn was nominated for a different Brian Piccolo Award, which has been given annually since 1970 in memory of the late Brian Piccolo to the "most courageous" football player in the ACC, as a freshman at the University of North Carolina. At that point, he began researching Piccolo, a Bears running back who passed away due to embryonal cell carcinoma on June 16, 1970, at the age of 26.
"To hear what he had to overcome and how he approached things [is] 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."
Close to home: In presenting Quinn with his award Tuesday, Bears first-year defensive coordinator Alan Williams revealed that he once played the part of Piccolo's close friend and teammate, Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers, in a ninth-grade production of "Brian's Song."
"My short-lived career in the theater, the only play that I've ever been a part of was Brian's Song," Williams said. "Whether you call it ironic or apropos, that was my first experience with Brian's Song."
Not a rebuild: Midway through his pre-draft press conference Tuesday, general manager Ryan Poles was asked whether the Bears are in the process of rebuilding.
"The 'rebuild' thing is like super sensitive," Poles said with a smile. "No, we're constructing a very good football team. Regardless of how you use whatever term that is, we just continue to add talent; and young talent, older talent, whatever it takes to make the best team possible."
Poles compared what he's doing with the Bears roster to home renovation TV shows.
"Late night with the wife, you're watching TV," he said, "you get the home network where there are some rooms that are good. You might have to re-do some countertops over here, some fresh paint over there. Some rooms are good; you don't need to touch them. That's kind of the thought process there. That's not a rebuild either."
Getting to know you: Poles has enjoyed watching Bears players develop camaraderie since the start of the voluntary offseason program April 4.
"With it being voluntary, in terms of the offseason program, the really cool thing that we all appreciate are the guys that did show up, and the biggest part of that is just the personal interactions that we have," Poles said. "I do think it takes time to build trust and build relationships with those guys, and that's something that we're working on and it's going really well.
"I think the other thing that's probably underrated more than anything is the time that they spend together in the locker room, getting to know each other. You have a group of new players in with the players that were here before, so just working on that chemistry, both on the field and in the locker room, it's important in this sport, so we're excited about that."