Sayers, who was known as the “Kansas Comet’, has his incredible NFL career cut show by knee injuries and was the youngest player to ever be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he was voted in in 1977 at the age of 34.
“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 and CEO David Baker said in a statement. “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.”
“The NFL family lost a true friend today with the passing of Gale Sayers” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Gale was one of the finest men in NFL history and one of the game’s most exciting players.
“Gale was an electrifying and elusive runner who thrilled fans every time he touched the ball. He earned his place as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. We will also forever remember Gale for his inspiration and kindness. Gale’s quiet unassuming demeanor belied his determination, competitiveness and compassion.”
“Football fans know well Gale’s many accomplishments on the field: a rare combination of speed and power as the game’s most electrifying runner, a dangerous kick returner, his comeback from a serious knee injury to lead the league in rushing, and becoming the youngest player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. People who weren’t even football fans came to know Gale through the TV movie”Brian’s Song,” about his friendship with teammate Brian Piccolo. Fifty years later, the movie’s message that brotherhood and love needn’t be defined by skin color, still resonates,” Bears chairman George McCaskey said in a statement.
Sayers rushed for 4,956 yards and 39 touchdowns over his seven year career, but did most of the production in the first 5 seasons as injuries limited him in 1970 and 1971.
Sayers was also a feared returner, averaging more than 30 yards per kickoff return while scoring 6 touchdowns, and averaging 14.5 yards per punt return to go along with two scores.
Sayers was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team in 1994 at halfback and kick returner, the only player named at two positions.
Sayers was a five-time All-Pro and led the league in rushing twice, including in 1969 (amassing 1,032 yards) after having torn the ACL and MCL in his right knee late in the prior season.