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The adjustment that must be made when transitioning from college-level football to the National Football League is considerable. The best from hundreds of universities across the nation are concentrated in one league, which was smaller in the 1960s and 1970s than it is today. First-year players, or rookies, trying to make the team are under tremendous pressure. Football, for better or worse, is their life. For many, there is no tomorrow. They either make the team that drafted them out of college, or they return to their hometowns with little or no prospects for a good job.
Under those conditions, two rookies rooming together, despite their different races, are likely to forge a strong bond of friendship. They endure brutally harsh practices, often under extreme heat and often wearing football equipment like pads that makes the physical stress even harder. In the case of Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo -- and everything that is known about both men is that they are or were good, decent individuals -- that they should become close friends is not particularly surprising. Despite their different backgrounds, races, and personalities, they shared a common experience akin to service in the military -- another profession where bonds are formed between disparate individuals surviving a common experience.
Sayers was known as an introverted, almost reclusive individual. Piccolo, conversely, was an extroverted Italian-American from Massachusetts. They had little in common save their love of and talent for football. An additional factor, however, made the development of a close friendship more likely: Piccolo's liberal attitudes toward race relations, evident during his years at Wake Forest University. Consequently, despite the racial tensions and riots breaking out across the country, the African-American Sayers was fortunate to find himself rooming with an open, friendly personality who held no known prejudices.
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