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Knighton Named Brian Piccolo Award Recipient

Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

Courtesy UM

GREENSBORO, N.C. ( -- Miami offensive lineman Hunter Knighton has been named the recipient of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 2015 Brian Piccolo Award, ACC Commissioner John Swofford announced Thursday.

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. 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.

The 2015 Piccolo Award will be presented at the ACC’s Night of Legends event, which will be held Friday (5:30 p.m.) at the Charlotte Convention Center as part of the festivities held around the Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game.

Knighton returned to the playing field for Miami this season less than 19 months after he suffered a heat stroke in spring practice and spent 12 days in a coma after his body temperature rose to 109 degrees. He underwent surgery to repair his paralyzed vocal chords, and the prognosis for his return to the football field initially appeared all but hopeless.

But through hard work and perseverance, Knighton battled his way back to good health and received medical clearance to return to the field this fall. Back at his normal playing weight after dropping 55 pounds during his illness, he has appeared in every game for the bowl-bound Hurricanes. The Pottstown, Pennsylvania, native has been a major contributor on special teams, and has also seen action on the offensive line.

“Hunter Knighton is truly deserving of this prestigious award,” said Miami interim head coach Larry Scott. “No one has worked harder than Hunter to get back on the field and play the game he truly loves. His sacrifice and determination over the past year is truly inspiring. He has defied the odds to return to the field and play a major role on our team. We could not be happier for Hunter and his family.” 

Knighton becomes the fifth Miami student-athlete to receive the Brian Piccolo Award and the third in four seasons. Running back Duke Johnson was honored last season, and defensive end Shayon Green earned the award in 2012.

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 - not available

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, N. Carolina

1986 - Ray Williams, WR, Clemson

1987 - no recipient

1988 - Jerry Mays, TB, Georgia Tech

1989 - Michael Anderson, RB, Maryland

1990 - Marc Mays, WR, Duke

1991 - Scott Adell, T, NC State

1992 - Dan Footman, DE, Florida State and 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 and Corey Simon, DT, Florida State

1999 - Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State

2000 - Ed Wilder, FB, Georgia Tech

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 and Nate Irving, LB, NC State

2011 - Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

2012 - Shayon Green, DE, Miami and Chris Thompson, RB, Florida State

2013 - Robert Godhigh, RB, Georgia Tech

2014 - Duke Johnson, RB, Miami

2015 - Hunter Knigthon, OL, Miami