Gale Sayers, Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back, died on Wednesday at the age of 77. Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker made the announcement, calling him an "extraordinary man." The cause of death was not revealed.
"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," 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." Baker went on to explain how Sayers made an impact in the NFL in a very short amount of time.
"The 'Kansas Comet' burst onto the scene in the National Football League and captured the attention of all of America," Bakers said. "Despite playing only 68 NFL games because of an injury-shortened career, Gale was a clear-cut — and first-ballot — Hall of Famer for his accomplishments on the field and for the man of character he was in life."
Sayers played for the Bears from 1965-1971. In his first season, Sayers was named to the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro First team after rushing for 867 yards and 14 touchdowns on 166 carries. He also caught 29 passes for 507 yards and six touchdowns. From there, Sayers would be named to the All-Pro First Team the next four seasons and would make the Pro Bowl three more times. His best season was in 1966 when he rushed for a league-leading 1,231 yards and eight touchdowns. He was named Comeback Player of the Year in 1969 after leading the league in rushing again (1,032 yards). He did this after injuring his knee in 1968, which led to him only playing nine games. Sayers is a member of the 1960s All-Decade Team, the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Sayers is also known for his relationship with Brian Piccolo. The two became the first interracial roommates in the NFL and developed a strong friendship. Sayers wrote about Piccolo in his autobiography, I Am Third and detailed how they battled on the field while Piccolo was dealing with cancer. Sayers was by Piccolo's side until his death in June 1970. The story was made into movie, which is called Brian's Song.