Former Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers has died at the age of 77 Wednesday due to complications from dementia.
Although Sayers only played six seasons in the NFL, he was regarded by many as one of the best running backs in NFL history. As a rookie in 1965, the Bears running back amassed 14 rushing touchdowns, six receiving touchdowns, and two touchdowns on punt and kick returns.
“The NFL family lost a true friend today with the passing of Gale Sayers. Gale was one of the finest men in NFL history and one of the game’s most exciting players,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Wednesday. “Gale was an electrifying and elusive runner who thrilled fans every time he touched the ball,” added Goodell, noting that “we will also forever remember Gale for his inspiration and kindness.
Sayers is also known for the 1971 made-for-TV movie Brian’s Song. The movie highlighted the friendship between Sayers and Brian Piccolo, a White teammate who was diagnosed with terminal cancer early in his career. Although the two men grew up in dramatically different backgrounds, they formed a special bond, even becoming the first interracial roommates in NFL history.
During his six years in the league, Sayers was named to the NFL Pro Bowl four times and was the Pro Bowl MVP in 1966, 1967, and 1970. The Kansas Comet, as he was known in college, once held the record for the most rushing touchdowns in a season with 22 and is still the last non-QB player to score six touchdowns in a game. Sayers retired before the 1972 season due to injuries to his knee and ankle. In 1977 the Kansas Comet became the youngest player ever inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame at the age of 34, a record he still holds.
In 1984 during his post-NFL career, Sayers founded an IT company by the same name. In 2009, Sayers Inc. made Black Enterprise’s Top 100 list of the nation’s largest Black businesses.
Sayers also worked in the athletic department at the University of Kansas, his alma mater, from 1972 through 1976. The former running back also served as the athletic director at Southern Illinois University Carbondale from 1976 through 1981.