CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia graduate student running back Mike Hollins has been named the recipient of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 2023 Brian Piccolo Award, the league announced on Monday (Nov. 27).

The Piccolo Award has been given annually since 1970 in memory of the late Brian Piccolo to the “most courageous” football player in the ACC. As a standout running back at Wake Forest, 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 diagnosed with cancer. His courageous fight against the disease was an inspiration to the Bears and the entire football community.

“When I received the news that I was named the Piccolo Award winner, I had to talk to the team that day at practice. I told them this was not a ‘me’ award, this was a ‘we’ award. And I really mean that. This year, together, we have gone through something we could have never imagined,” said Hollins. “I am proud to have been a part of a team that came to work, stayed motivated, and never lost focus. It is nice for the team to receive the recognition for the courage it displayed this year.”

On November 13, 2022, Hollins suffered two gunshot wounds to the back during a shooting that happened on a charter bus that was returning a group of Virginia students from a field trip to Washington, D.C. When gunshots were fired in the back of the bus – killing three of Hollins’ UVA teammates – he fled the bus but made the decision to return to assist his teammates and other students on the bus. He was confronted by the shooter near the front of the bus and shot in the back while attempting to leave the bus. Hollins managed to flee to a nearby parking garage, but fearing he may not be found there when aid workers arrived, went back to the bus area to await responders. Despite being involved in a horrendous shooting that also injured another UVA student, Hollins vowed to return to his team and play his final season at Virginia.

“Mike Hollins is one of those transformational type of individuals that we’ll look back years from now and say, wow, we were around somebody that is truly special. I don’t think any of us can really appreciate, or put into context mentally, what he had to do to be able to play football again this season,” stated Virginia head coach Tony Elliott. “He is an amazing young man. All season he played hard, he played focused, and he was a great leader for our football team. It was a hard and difficult season and yet, every day, Mike was a motivational force for all of us. Being around Mike has made me a better man and coach.”

Admitted to the hospital in critical condition on November 13, 2022, after being shot twice in the back in which the bullets narrowly missed his spine and created numerous injuries to his abdominal organs. He underwent two surgeries over the next few days to address those injuries and spent a week in the intensive care unit. His recovery required a period of eight weeks of inactivity to allow for healing. He returned to limited physical activity in mid-January, with the goals of increasing his fitness and regaining core stability. Hollins was able to participate in 2023 spring football on a limited basis and returned to unrestricted activity during summer conditioning.

Week 1 recipient of the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award, Hollins has returned after his recovery to play in 11 of 12 games this season for the Cavaliers. As part of a three-man rotation at running back this year, he has recorded 80 carries for 274 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns on the ground. He also has 10 receptions for 34 yards and one touchdown catch. Throughout the season, Hollins has served as UVA’s primary third-down back for short yardage and also for pass protection packages.

Named to the 2022 ACC All-Academic team and the 2022-23 ACC Honor Roll last year, Hollins is a semifinalist for the 2023 James Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award and a nominee for the 2023 Comeback Player of the Year Award this year.

Hollins becomes the sixth student-athlete from Virginia to earn the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award and the first since safety Ryan Best in 2005.

ACC Brian Piccolo Award Winners

1970 Paul Miller, QB, North Carolina
1971 Jim Webster, LB, North Carolina
1972 Mark Johnson, QB, Duke
1973 Al Neville, QB, Maryland
1974 David Visaggio, DG, Maryland
1975 Scott Gardner, QB, Virginia
1976 Jeff Green, DE, Duke
1977 Ralph Stringer, DB, NC State
1978 Rex Varn, DB, Clemson
1979 Al Richardson, LB, Wake Forest
1980 Jack Cain, DB, Clemson
1981 Aaron Stewart, DB, Duke
1982 Kenny Duckett, WR, Wake Forest
1983 John Piedmonte, OLB, Wake Forest
1984 J.D. Maarleveld, T, Maryland
1985 Danny Burmeister, DB, North Carolina
1986 Ray Williams, WR, Clemson
1987 no recipient
1988 Jerry Mays, TB, Wake Forest
1989 Michael Anderson, RB, Maryland
1990 Marc Mays, WR, Duke
1991 Scott Adell, T, NC State
1992 Dan Footman, DE, Florida State
Randy Cuthbert, TB, Duke
1993 Scott Youmans, DL, Duke
1994 Chris Harrison, T, Virginia
1995 Warren Forney, DT, Clemson
1996 John Lewis, RB, Wake Forest
1997 Sam Cowart, LB, Florida State
1998 Anthony Poindexter, DB, Virginia
Corey Simon, DT, Florida State
1999 Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State
2000 Ed Wilder, FB, Wake Forest
2001 Matt Crawford, T, Maryland
2002 Anquan Boldin, WR, Florida State
2003 Kevin Bailey, OL, Virginia
2004 Frank Gore, RB, Miami
2005 Ryan Best, S, Virginia
2006 Glenn Sharpe, Miami
2007 Matt Robinson, DE, Wake Forest
2008 Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
2009 Toney Baker, RB, NC State
2010 Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College
Nate Irving, LB, NC State
2011 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
2012 Shayon Green, DE, Miami
Chris Thompson, RB, Florida State
2013 Robert Godhigh, RB, Wake Forest
2014 Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
2015 Hunter Knighton, OL, Miami
2016 James Conner, RB, Pitt
2017 Trevon Young, DE, Louisville
2018 Greg Dortch, WR/KR, Wake Forest
2019 Richard Yeargin, DE, Boston College
2020 Nolan Cooney, P, Syracuse
2021 McKenzie Milton, QB, Florida State
Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
2022 Sam Hartman, QB, Wake Forest
2023 Mike Hollins, RB, Virginia