Based on the real-life relationship between teammates Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers and the bond established when Piccolo discovers that he is dying.



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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 10 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
J.C. Caroline
Judy Pace ...
Abe Gibron ...
Jack Concannon ...
Ed O'Bradovich ...
Ed O'Bradovich
The Chicago Bears Players ...
The Chicago Bears Coaches ...
The Chicago Bears Staff ...
Harold 'Happy' Hairston ...
Veteran Player #1 (as Happy Hairston)
Veteran Player #2 (Doug Atkins)


Gale Sayers joins the Chicago Bears and is befriended by Brian Piccolo, an over-achieving running back. Although they compete for the same spot on the team, and despite the fact that Sayers is black and Piccolo white, they become roommates on the road and very close friends, especially when Sayers is injured and Piccolo helps his recovery. Later, they and their wives must both deal with the harsh reality of Piccolo's cancer. Written by Jerry Milani <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


An inspiring true story of friendship and courage.


Biography | Drama | Sport


G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

30 November 1971 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Freunde bis in den Tod  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Dick Butkus made his acting debut in this film playing himself in an uncredited role. See more »


When the coaches ask Sayers to room with Piccolo in 1965, they warn that people in cities like Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston and Miami won't take well to integrated roommates. Atlanta didn't join the NFL until 1966, New Orleans 1967, and Houston and Miami until the AFL/NFL merger in 1970. Miami wasn't even in the AFL until 1966. See more »


Brian Piccolo: It's all so pointless, Gayle. I mean, I know perfectly well what's wrong with me. Gayle, I uh... I think I'm pregnant.
See more »


Referenced in Rita Rocks: The Crying Game (2008) See more »


Brian's Song
Written and Performed by Michel Legrand Et Son Orchestre
See more »

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User Reviews

this movie broke my heart....
4 March 2004 | by (atlanta, georgia) – See all my reviews

I read the book this movie was based on 'I Am Third' by Gale Sayers before there even was a movie. I was inspired by the friendship of the two players. The book lightly touched on the death of Brian Piccolo. When the TV movie came on I told my sisters about him and we sat down in my room to watch the movie. By the end of the movie,we were all crying. My younger brother went running out to the living room to tell my mom someone must have died because we were all crying.

Well, the next time it was on I sat w/my mom to watch it. She had the same reaction.

If that wasn't enough sadness, I bought the book 'A Short Season' by Brian Piccolo and another author. I read it most of the day. I was gettiing ready for a date and I was early. I decided to read the end of the book. If you thought the movie was sad, the book broke my heart!! I cried so hard there was black mascara all over my face. I was still sobbing when my date came to the door. Naturally, I had to redo my makeup.

James Caan (who did not resemble Brian at all) did a wonderful job of capturing his spirit. Billy Dee Williams was wonderful as Gale Sayers. The portrayed the guys friendship so well.

It's too bad we all can't know a friend like these two had!

Watch the original movie!

6 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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