Chicago Bears’ Hall of Fame running back Gale Eugene Sayers has died at 77 years old. Widely known as the “Kansas Comet,” he was the youngest player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Chicago Tribune reports that he passed away “after a years-long decline in health that included dementia.”
"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," Hall of Fame president David Baker said in a statement obtained by ESPN. "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."
Born in Wichita, KS on May 30, 1943, Sayers was legendary before he reached the NFL. In 1961, he set a state long jump record of 24 ft, 11¾ inches as a senior at Omaha Central High School.
He was heavily recruited by Midwestern colleges and eventually settled on playing at the University of Kansas where he was recognized twice as a consensus All-American and racked up 4,020 all-purpose yards over the course of three seasons.
When he made it into the NFL, he was the Rookie of the Year after setting a league record of 22 scoring touchdowns. In one game that season, he scored six touchdowns and tied a league record.
Sayer averaged 5 yards per carry in his career and led the league twice in rushing. One of those years was in 1969, incredibly, after tearing both his ACL and MCL in his right knee the season before.
After another major injury, this time in his left knee, he retired in 1971 with 4,956 yards and 39 touchdowns on the ground and six touchdowns as a kickoff returner. In each of his five seasons, he earned All-Pro recognition.
“If you wish to see perfection as a running back, you had best get a hold of a film of Gale Sayers,” said Bears founder George Halas, in 1977, when Sayers was being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “He was poetry in motion. His like will never be seen again.”