Kan. native, Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers dies
Sep 24 2020
He was named a first-team all-pro in each of his first five seasons, led the National Football League in rushing in 1966 and again in 1969, and became the youngest player inducted into the Hall of Fame, at age 34 in 1977.
Enshrined in 1977 when he was 34 years old, Sayers went in as the youngest Hall of Famer in history.
In his second season in 1966, Sayers led the NFL in rushing with 1,231 yards and set a league record with 2,440 all-purpose yards. He played in just two games in both 1970 and 1971 and retired just ahead of the 1972 season due to numerous knee injuries.
When the Bears selected Sayers with the fourth pick in the 1965 draft out of Kansas, they were hoping that they had landed a breakaway successor to the late Willie Galimore, a star running back who had been killed in an automobile accident the previous summer at training camp in Rensselaer, Ind. "(Simpson) and a couple of other guys", he added.
In 1967, hotel-room assignments were generally done by position and running back was the only slot on the Bears team where players of different colors would be thrown together. His legend continued to grow despite a devastating injury to his right knee that curtailed his 1968 season. After Sayers returned the next season to become an All-Pro, he made sure his friend shared in the credit. He would be diagnosed with cancer.
The movie, in which Sayers was played by Billy Dee Williams and Piccolo was played by James Caan, was based on parts of Sayers' autobiography "I Am Third".
Sayers stayed by Piccolo's side as the illness took its toll, donating blood and providing support. Piccolo, the same age, was white, an inveterate talker and joker who was competing with Sayers for playing time in the backfield after being undrafted and clambering from the taxi squad onto the game-day roster. I love Brian Piccolo and I'd like all of you to love him, too.
Sayers made the 130-mile trip from his home in IN to attend the opening ceremony of the Bears' 100th-season celebration in June 2019, receiving a rousing ovation.
The Hall of Fame confirmed his passing in a statement on Wednesday.