Home Virginia running back Mike Hollins is 2023 Brian Piccolo Award honoree
Football, Sports

Virginia running back Mike Hollins is 2023 Brian Piccolo Award honoree

Chris Graham
uva football
Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia running back Mike Hollins is the 2023 Brian Piccolo Award winner, maybe the easiest choice in years, considering what Hollins had to endure to get back on the field in 2023.

The grad student was among five UVA students who were shot by a classmate on Nov. 13, 2022. The shooting killed three of Hollins’ teammates – Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry – and nearly killed Hollins, who suffered life-threatening injuries after leading other students off the bus to safety, then returning to try to help those who had been shot.

Hollins was admitted to the hospital in critical condition after suffering two gunshot wounds, the bullets narrowly missing spine, but creating numerous injuries to internal organs.

Doctors performed two surgeries over the next few days to address those injuries, and Hollins spent a week ICU.

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 – scoring a TD in the spring game – and returned to unrestricted activity during summer conditioning.

As part of a three-man rotation at running back this year, Hollins had 80 carries for 274 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns on the ground, and also had 10 receptions for 34 yards and one touchdown catch.

“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,” Virginia head coach Tony Elliott said. “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.”

The Brian 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.

If you dare, watch the movie “Brian’s Song” – the 1971 original made-for-TV movie – and try not to cry your eyes out.

You will fail.

“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.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].