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Dec. 15, 2005

Greensboro, N.C. – University of Virginia football player Ryan Best has been named the recipient of the 2005 Brian Piccolo Award, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford announced Thursday.

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.

Best, a 5-11, 205-pound defensive back, has played in 10 games and made 14 tackles for the Cavaliers this season, despite being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease last February. He underwent surgery to remove malignant cervical lymph nodes, and began chemotherapy shortly thereafter. After completing months of chemotherapy, Best underwent radiation treatments in the summer. His oncologist declared him free of cancer following a PET scan on July 29, 2005.

Best rarely missed a winter conditioning session, and participated in spring drills unless he had chemotherapy that day. The Williamstown, N.J., native was also a leader during summer conditioning sessions, even though the radiation treatments on his neck left his mouth painfully dry due to decreased salivary output.

A valuable special teams player and a regular contributor in the Cavaliers’ defensive secondary, Best’s bravery and positive attitude in the face of the life-threatening illness were sources of inspiration to his teammates and coaches. Best’s commitment to the team during his treatment, despite his walk-on status, embodied the grit and determination that Virginia hopes to see in each of its players.

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