Gale “Kansas Comet” Sayers, Legendary Chicago Bears running back who’s book the 1971 movie Brian’s Song was based on, died today. He was 77.
His death was announced by David Baker, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Inducted back in 1977, he was the youngest player in pro football history to join their hallowed halls. Baker said: “All those who love the game of football mourn the loss of one of the greatest players to ever play the game with the passing of the Chicago Bears legend Gale Sayers. 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 his life.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell added this in a statement: “Sayers spent his entire seven-year NFL career with the Chicago Bears from 1965 to 1971. He was named to the All-Pro first team in each of his first five seasons, won the NFL Rookie of the Year Award in 1965 and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection… Despite playing just 68 games in his career, Sayers left a lasting impression on the league. The Kansas native was named to the All-Decade team for the 1960s, and was included on the league’s 50th, 75th and 100th anniversary teams.”
Below is a tribute tweet to #22 from the NFL:
The Chicago Tribune reports that “Sayers’ legendary athleticism was a bittersweet topic at the Bears100 Celebration in June 2019, as former teammates tried to make sense of how the electric running back they revered could be the same frail, wheelchair-bound man who appeared on stage.”
At the celebration, Mike Ditka said “He looked like he was gliding. Everybody was slipping and sliding except him. It was the most unbelievable exhibition I’ve ever seen in the history of the game.”
According to his wife, Sayers was diagnosed with Dementia in 2013 at the Mayo Clinic, likely arising from the battering he took gaining legendary status on the football field.
That same year, he sued the NFL for not taking his head injuries seriously. Sadly, by the end of his life, he could hardly speak or write his own name. Sayers’ number 40 jersey with the Bears, and his number 48 college jersey with the Kansas Jayhawks, have been retired to honor him.
Reel Chicago extends its condolences to the Sayer family.