By Chris Emma–

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Nearly a year to the date, Bears running back Jordan Howard was expecting something different.

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A standout in college, Howard imagined himself going much higher than the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He had rushed for 1,213 yards at Indiana in 2015 and 1,587 a season prior at UAB.

Howard seemed to be a star in the making. Many didn’t realize it.

“I thought I was a lot better than a lot of people who got selected before me,” Howard said. “But that was out of my control, so…”

So Howard arrived highly motivated in Chicago and broke the Bears’ rookie rushing record, running for 1,313 yards in 13 starts.

Tuesday was a special day for Howard, who was honored alongside receiver Josh Bellamy as the Bears’ recipients of the Brian Piccolo Award, which recognizes a rookie and veteran who best exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo. Howard won the rookie honor, while Bellamy won the veteran award.

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It’s an honor voted upon by Bears players.

“He’s a workhorse,” Bellamy said of Howard. “He’s going to work all day, every day.”

His mother, Flora Williams, flew in to see her son honored by the Bears. Jordan remembered his late father, Doc, while accepting the award.

Howard received an honor that’s truly special to the McCaskey and Piccolo families, the highest honor bestowed upon players in the organization. More than the Pro Bowl, this recognition symbolized how Howard found his place with the Bears.

What’s next for Howard? The same approach that got him this far.

“Ever since I’ve been playing this game, I always wanted to be the best,” Howard said. “That’s still my drive. I want to be the best player. I want to make the Hall of Fame. But I also want to win Super Bowls. I want to keep getting better so the team can get better as well.”

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Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.