The Piccolo Award has been given annually since 1972 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.
Baker suffered a severe knee injury in the opening game of the 2007 season against Central Florida which, at the time, was thought to be career-ending. After surgery for cartilage implantation, he sat out the entire 2007 campaign with rehabilitation. In August of 2008, it was determined that Baker would need additional surgery, which forced him to miss a second consecutive season with rehabilitation for the knee.
He played his first game in two years this fall in the season opener against South Carolina and he is NC State's leading rusher and currently ranks 6th in the ACC in rushing with 773 yards and 6th in touchdowns scored with nine. He has topped 1,100 yards this year in combined yardage (1,128)-rushing and pass receiving-and has 2,045 yards rushing for his career.
"Toney Baker is certainly a worthy choice for the Piccolo Award, because he has shown true courage in the face of adversity, " said NC State Head Football Coach Tom O'Brien. "It's difficult for a player to miss a year due to an injury, but Toney's injury was so devastating that he had to miss two years. Throughout that time, Toney faced each and every challenge and setback with dogged determination and a positive attitude and has come back stronger than ever. He is truly an inspiration to our team."
Baker becomes the third NC State student-athlete to be honored with the Piccolo Award but the first since 1991, joining Ralph Stringer (1977) and Scott Adell (1991).