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Gale Sayers
Sayers in January 2008
Running back
Jersey #(s)
Born May 30, 1943 (1943-05-30) (age 66)
Wichita, Kansas
Career information
Year(s) 19651971
NFL Draft 1965 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
AFL Draft 1965 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5
(By the Kansas City Chiefs)
College Kansas
Professional teams
Career stats
Rushing Yards 4,956
Average 5.0
Touchdowns 48
Stats at
Career highlights and awards

Gale Eugene Sayers (born May 30, 1943) also known as "The Kansas Comet", is a retired professional football player in the National Football League who spent his entire career with the Chicago Bears.

Sayers is a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. His friendship with fellow Chicago Bear Brian Piccolo was the basis for the 1971 movie Brian's Song. He is a successful entrepreneur in the information technology field and an active philanthropist.


Early Years and College career

Born in Wichita, Kansas and reared in Omaha, Nebraska, Sayers graduated from Omaha Central High School (where he set a state long jump record of 24'11 3/4"); he was a two-time All-American football player at the University of Kansas. During his Jayhawk career, he rushed for 2,675 yards and gained 3,917 all-purpose yards. In 1963, he set an NCAA Division I record with a 99-yard run against Nebraska. In his senior year, he led the Jayhawks to a 15-14 upset victory over Oklahoma with a 96-yard kickoff return. Sayers is considered by many to have been the greatest open field runner in college football history.[citation needed]

Professional career

Rookie season (1965)

Gale Sayers was drafted by the Bears and the Kansas City Chiefs of the American Football League, but signed with Chicago. In his rookie year, he scored an NFL record 22 touchdowns (14 rushing, 6 receiving, and 1 each on punt and kickoff returns). He gained 1,374 yards from scrimmage and had 2,272 all-purpose yards (also a record, later broken by Tim Brown, who played two more games than Sayers). He tied Ernie Nevers' and Dub Jones' record for touchdowns in a single game, with 6 in a 61-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on December 12.

Sayers averaged an impressive 5.2 yards per rush and 17.5 yards per reception. His return averages were even more impressive, with 14.9 yards per punt return and 31.4 yards per kickoff return. He was the unanimous choice for NFL Rookie of the Year honors. Despite his heroics, the Bears finished in third place in the NFL Western Conference (behind the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Colts)

Second NFL season (1966)

In his second season, despite being the focus of opposing defenses, Sayers led the league in rushing with 1,231 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry with 8 touchdowns. He led the Bears in receiving with 34 catches, 447 yards, and two more scores; he also more than matched his rookie season's kick return numbers, averaging 31.2 yards per return with 2 touchdowns. He set another NFL record with 2,440 all-purpose yards despite the fact the Bears struggled, finishing in fifth place with a 5-7-2 record. Sayers also won the first of three Pro Bowl Most Valuable Player awards.

Sayers signing autographs in 2005

Third NFL season (1967)

In George Halas's last season as an NFL coach, Sayers again starred on a relatively average Bear team. Sharing more of the rushing duties with other backs, like Brian Piccolo, Sayers gained only 880 yards with a 4.7 average per carry. His receptions were down as well, as the Chicago offense had become somewhat punchless. Only his returns remained spectacular. He had 3 kickoff returns for touchdowns on only 16 returns, averaging 37.7 yards per return. Only rarely returning punts, Sayers still managed to run one back for a score. Chicago finished in second place in the newly organized Central Division with a 7-6-1 record.

First and second injuries

After the first nine games of 1968, Sayers was again leading the NFL in rushing (he finished with 856 yards and a 6.2 average per carry). However, his season ended prematurely in a game against the San Francisco 49ers when Sayers tore many ligaments in his right knee. After surgery, Sayers went through a physical rehabilitation program with the help of teammate Brian Piccolo.

In the 1969 season Sayers led the league in rushing once again with 1,032 yards, but he lacked the lightning speed he once had, and averaged only 4.4 yards per carry. The Bears, long past the Halas glory years, finished in last place with a franchise worst 1–13 record.

In 1970, Sayers suffered a second knee injury, this time to his left knee. Piccolo also died of cancer that year. During his off time, Sayers took classes to become a stockbroker and became the first black stockbroker in his company's history. After another rehabilitation period, he tried a comeback in 1971, but was not successful. He was encouraged to retire because of his loss of speed. His final game was in the preseason; he was handed the ball three times and fumbled twice.

Sayers retired from football in 1971.

In 1977, Sayers was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and is still the youngest inductee in the Hall's history. In 1994, the Bears retired his number 40 at Soldier Field, along with the number 51 of his teammate, legendary linebacker Dick Butkus. In 1999, despite the brevity of his career, he was ranked #21 on The Sporting News's list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

NFL records

Sayers' records include most touchdowns in a rookie season (22 in 1965), most touchdowns in a game (6, tied with Nevers and Jones), highest career kickoff return average (30.56), and most return touchdowns in a game (2, tied with many players).

Kickoff return touchdown percentage

The following table ranks all National Football League kick returners with at least 4 touchdown returns through the 2008 season by touchdown return percentage:

Top 25 career
Name TD Returns Yards Average TD % Start End
Gale Sayers 6 91 2781 30.56 6.59% 1965 1971
Devin Hester 6 94 2141 22.8 6.38% 2006 present
Travis Williams 6 102 2801 27.46 5.88% 1967 1971
Bobby Mitchell 5 102 2690 26.37 4.90% 1958 1968
Ollie Matson 6 143 3746 26.20 4.20% 1952 1964
Leon Washington 4 101 2601 25.76 3.96% 2006 present
Jon Vaughn 4 103 2390 23.20 3.88% 1991 1994
Darrick Vaughn 4 103 2620 25.44 3.88% 2000 2003
Cecil Turner 4 108 2616 24.22 3.70% 1968 1973
Justin Miller 5 141 3745 26.62 3.55% 2005 present
Tony Horne 4 143 3577 25.01 2.80% 1998 2000
Timmy Brown 5 186 4781 25.70 2.69% 1959 1968
Abe Woodson 5 193 5538 28.69 2.59% 1958 1966
Joshua Cribbs 8 209 5507 26.35 2.26% 2005 present
Andre Coleman 4 193 4446 23.04 2.07% 1994 1998
Ron Brown 4 199 4493 22.58 2.01% 1984 1990
Terrence McGee 4 206 5420 26.31 1.94% 2003 present
Tamarick Vanover 4 226 5422 23.99 1.77% 1995 1999
Mel Gray 6 421 10250 24.35 1.43% 1986 1997
Dante Hall 6 426 10136 23.79 1.41% 2000 2008
Michael Bates 5 373 9110 24.42 1.34% 1993 2003
Allen Rossum 5 506 11779 23.28 0.99% 1998 present
Brian Mitchell 4 607 14014 23.09 0.66% 1990 2003


Brian's Song

Sayers' friendship with teammate Brian Piccolo, and Piccolo's struggle with cancer (embryonal cell carcinoma, a type of cancer, found as a large tumor in his chest cavity which would eventually result in his death), became the subject of the made-for-TV movie Brian's Song. The movie, in which Sayers was portrayed by Billy Dee Williams in the 1971 original, and by Mekhi Phifer in the 2001 remake, was adapted from Sayers' own telling of this story in his 1971 autobiography I Am Third.

A notable aspect of Sayers' friendship with Piccolo, a white man, and the first film's depiction of their friendship, was its effect on race relations. The first film was made in the wake of racial riots and charges of discrimination across the nation. Sayers and Piccolo were devoted friends and deeply respectful of and affectionate with each other. Piccolo helped Sayers through rehabilitation after injury, and Sayers was by Piccolo's side throughout his illness.


Gale Sayers has had a successful career following his retirement from football. In 1976, Sayers was named Athletic Director at Southern Illinois University. Later, in 1984 he founded Crest Computer Supply Company in the Chicago-area. Under Gale's leadership, this company experienced consistent growth and was renamed Sayers 40, Inc.

Currently, he is Chairman of Sayers 40, Inc., a leader in technology consulting and implementation serving Fortune 1000 companies nationally with offices in Vernon Hills, IL, Canton, MA, St. Petersburg, FL, and Atlanta, GA.

Gale Sayers and his wife are also active philanthropists in Chicago. They support the Cradle Foundation—an adoption organization in Evanston, IL—and, most recently, they founded the Gale Sayers Center in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. The Gale Sayers Center is an after-school program for children ages 8–12 from Chicago's west side and focuses on leadership development, tutoring, and mentoring.

In 2009, Sayers joined the University of Kansas Athletic Department staff as Director of Fundraising for Special Projects.[1]

External links


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