Florida State senior running back Chris Thompson (Greenville, Fla.) and Miami defensive end Shayon Green (Tifton, Ga.), who both overcame severe injuries to become major contributors to their teams this year, have been named co-winners of the Atlantic Coast Conference's 2012 Brian Piccolo Award, ACC Commissioner John Swofford announced Thursday.
Disappointingly Thompson's comeback campaign was cut short this season.
The Piccolo Award has been given annually since 1972 in memory of the late Brian Piccolo to the "most courageous" football player in the ACC. Piccolo was the ACC Athlete of the Year in 1965 and played for the Chicago Bears before his career was cut short when he was stricken with cancer. His courageous fight against that disease was an inspiration to the Bears and the entire football community.
Thompson suffered a fractured back against Wake Forest in the Seminoles' fourth game of the season in 2011, suffering compression fractures to his 5th and 6th thoracic vertebrae. The injury required Thompson to be in a spine immobilizing brace for three months. After extensive rehabilitation, he came back to be Florida State's leading rusher with 687 yards on 91 carries, a sparkling 7.5 yards-per-carry average, including touchdown runs of 74 and 80 yards. Unfortunately, Thompson suffered a season-ending knee injury in Florida State's 8th game of the year against Miami. At the time of his injury he was the 2nd-leading rusher in the ACC and still ranks 3rd. He topped the 100-yard mark in rushing three times in eight games including an 197-yard day against Wake Forest and added 21 receptions for 248 yards. Despite missing the final three games of the season, he was voted second-team All-ACC by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA).
"There's not a more deserving young man to win the Brian Piccolo Award because he exhibits all the qualities that you hear associated with Brian Piccolo," said Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher. "He is an outstanding young man with a strong Christian faith. He is a great player and has endured so much the last two years. Suffering the broken back and then having the determination to comeback from that and suffer the knee injury this year, he's been through a great deal. What he represents as a person, as a student, as a college athlete and his importance to our team is unbelievable. He is one of the most special guys I have ever had the privilege of coaching."
Green had to overcome four different major injuries. He twice tore the ACL in his right knee, once tore the meniscus in his right knee and also suffered a wrist dislocation forcing him to miss all or a major part of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. Finally healthy, Green was the leading tackler and one of the key leaders to a young Miami defense, with 38 of his 67 tackles unassisted, 2.0 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. He is the first Miami defensive linemen to lead the Hurricanes in tackles for a season in more than 30 years.
"Shayon is an amazing individual with an unparalleled work ethic," said Miami head coach Al Golden. "I cannot think of anyone who exemplifies the ideals of Brian Piccolo or is more deserving of this award than him. He has overcome a dislocated wrist and three separate knee surgeries to become our leading tackler and team captain. His commitment and perseverance is an inspiration to us all."
Green is the third Miami player to be chosen to receive the Piccolo Award in the eight years since the Hurricanes joined the ACC for the 2004 season, joining Frank Gore (2004) and Glenn Sharpe (2006).
Thompson is the sixth Florida State student-athlete to be so honored, but the first since Anquan Boldin in 2002. Other Seminoles who have received the Piccolo Award include Chris Weinke (1999), Corey Simon, a co-winner in 1998; Sam Cowart (1997) and Dan Footman, who was also a co-winner in 1992.
This year's winners mark the fourth time that co-recipients of the Piccolo Award have been chosen. Coincidentally, on three of those occasions an FSU student-athlete has been involved.