Right tackle Jordan Mills was named the Bears' 2013 Piccolo Award rookie winner Tuesday, a timely reminder of how much a successful late-round draft pick could help the team. Mills, last year's fifth-round pick, started each game for an overhauled offensive line that was the foundation for a significant offensive improvement.
As the Bears seek similar success Saturday with their four Day 3 picks — a fourth-rounder, a fifth-rounder and two picks in the sixth round — they view Mills' intangibles as a blueprint for finding a positive contributor.
“The first guy out to practice every day is Jordan Mills,” coach Marc Trestman said. “I know he gives a great credit to his family, the way he was raised and the environment he was raised under, but he does everything as if he's walking like a champion every day.
“He's early to meetings. He's well-prepared. He's humble. He listens. He never feels like he knows it all, and he's always willing to learn. So he's a great example for all of us.”
Trestman, when asked how the Bears were able to get such production out of a late-round pick, credited general manager Phil Emery and the team's scouting staff for finding a player with such intangibles, and he also applauded assistant coaches Aaron Kromer and Pat Meyer for developing Mills' talent through training camp and the season.
Bears players vote on the Piccolo Award winners, who exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo.
“Even though I may not be the strongest, the fastest, the most athletic, I like to show that I have the will, the heart and the spirit to conquer anything,” Mills said.
Kromer praised Mills’ dedication and courage by revealing Mills suffered his broken right foot during warm-ups before the de facto NFC North championship game in Week 17 against the Packers. Mills hopes to be cleared to participate in spring practices, which begin May 27.
Former Bears quarterback Josh McCown was the Piccolo Award veteran winner. QB Jay Cutler accepted it on McCown's behalf because McCown was with his new team, the Buccaneers.
“My only regret is that I wish I would have met him earlier in life,” Cutler said. “It's very rare to find a teammate that not only makes you a better player but also a better person.”
McCown had 13 touchdown passes and just one interception in eight games last season, most with the injured Cutler out.
In a speech McCown wrote and Cutler read, McCown described how he overcame the anxiety of being forced into action in Week 7.
“When my focus turned away from myself and onto my teammates, I gained a peace and my fears were gone,” McCown wrote. “Coach Trestman said many times that what one of us does affects all of us. That's what makes receiving this award so humbling.”