Gale Sayers received praise as one of football's greatest offensive players from all corners of the NFL. "If you wish to see perfection at running back," remarked Chicago Bears owner George Halas, "you'd best get a hold of a film of Gale Sayers." The occasion for Halas's high praise was Sayers's 1977 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
The youngest man ever accorded pro football's highest honor, Sayers (born 1943) began his remarkable career as a standout halfback at the University of Kansas.
The exciting "Kansas Comet" was one of the most brilliant performers in the Big Eight Conference's history. In three seasons, he rushed for 2,675 yards, returned 22 kickoffs for 513 yards, brought back 28 punts for 324 yards, and caught 35 passes for 408 yards.
His 283 yards rushing in a 1962 game against Oklahoma State and his 99-yard run from scrimmage against Nebraska in 1963 were both conference records.
As a pro, Sayers exploded on the scene. His trademark moves and breakaway speed dazzled his Chicago Bears teammates, opponents, and fans alike.
In a game against the Vikings midway into his remarkable rookie season, Sayers scored four touchdowns, one coming on a 96-yard kickoff return. A few weeks later, the amazing rookie scored an NFL record-tying six touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers.
Sayers's one-man show included an 80-yard pass-run play, a 50-yard rush, and an 85-yard punt return. For the season, he amassed 2,272 combined net yards and scored an NFL rookie-record 22 touchdowns.
In 1966, Sayers increased his net yards figure to an NFL-record 2,440 yards and led the league in rushing with 1,231 yards. After an outstanding campaign in 1967 and a great nine-game start (856 yards rushing) in 1968, Sayers suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Determined to resume where he left off, Sayers battled back. In 1969, the Comeback Player of the Year rushed for a league-best 1,032 yards. But injuries continued to take their toll and, just before the start of the 1972 season, Sayers called it quits.
To learn more about football greats, see:
- Great Football Players
- Great Offensive Football Players
- Great Defensive Football Players
- Great Football Coaches