Chicago Bears Legend and Hall of Fame Running Back Gale Sayers passed away Wednesday at the age of 77.
According to the NFL, Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Bakers announced the news of Sayer’s passing (NFL.com):
“All those who love the game of football mourn the loss of one of the greatest to ever play this game with the passing of Chicago Bears legend Gale Sayers,” Baker said in a statement. “He was the very essence of a team player — quiet, unassuming and always ready to compliment a teammate for a key block. Gale was an extraordinary man who overcame a great deal of adversity during his NFL career and life.
“The ‘Kansas Comet’ burst onto the scene in the National Football League and captured the attention of all of America. Despite playing only 68 NFL games because of an injury-shortened career, Gale was a clear-cut — and first-ballot — Hall of Famer for his accomplishments on the field and for the man of character he was in life.
“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Gale. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Ardie, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will fly at half-staff until he is laid to rest.”
The Kansas Comet was born in Wichita before attending the University of Kansas on a football scholarship.
After rushing for 2,675 yards and being named a three-time first team All-Big Eight selection and two-time consensus selection for the All-America Team, Sayers was drafted by the Chicago Bears as the fourth pick of the first round in the 1965 NFL draft.
In his rookie debut, Sayers sent shockwaves through the NFL with a record-breaking 22 total touchdowns and 1,371 rushing yards. He was the consensus choice for NFL Rookie of the Year.
The following season, Sayers took the NFL rushing title with 1,231 yards and a 5.4 average yards per carry.
In his third campaign, Sayers ended up sharing the rushing duties in Chicago before his career took a turn for the worst.
His last 4 seasons in the NFL were hampered by injuries to both his right and left knees. He eventually retired after only playing 68 games, but his raw speed and athleticism left a mark on the NFL with 4,956 total rushing yards and 39 rushing touchdowns and hold 23 different NFL records.
Sayers was a four-time Pro Bowler, five-time first team All-Pro, two-time rushing yard leader, Rookie of the Year, and has been named to the 50th, 75th and 100th NFL Anniversary All-Time Teams.
His number 40 jersey was retired by the Chicago Bears and number 48 jersey is retired by the Kansas Jayhawks.
Later in his life, Sayers spent time as a collegiate athletic director at Southern Illinois and Tennessee State.
In 2017, Sayers wife Ardythe revealed he had been diagnosed with dementia in 2013 which was likely caused by his football career.
He is survived by his wife Ardythe (Bullard) Sayers and his three children from a previous marriage.