Gale Sayers, Gale Eugene Sayers

Gale Sayers, 2008 (Photo credit: Michael Tolzmann; photo is in the public domain)

In the 1960s, Gale Sayers (1943–2020) made football history when, playing for the Chicago Bears against the San Francisco 49ers, he scored six touchdowns in one game, tying an NFL record. After just three years in the NFL, he was voted the best halfback in the first 50 years of professional football and later became the youngest player ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1977). His popular book, I Am Third, which depicts his relationship with Bears teammate Brian Piccolo, who died from cancer, was made into the film, Brian’s Song.

Born Gale Eugene Sayers in Wichita, Kansas, Gale grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was a star running back at Omaha Central High School and a record-setting long-jumper in track and field. At the University of Kansas (1963–1964), where he was known as "The Kansas Comet," he was a two-time All-American in football. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1965 and set a record for a rookie—2,272 combined rushing, receiving, and kick-return yards and twenty-two touchdowns. That same year, he was the unanimous choice for NFL Rookie of the Year. During his time with the Bears, he was named Offensive Player of the Game in three of the four Pro Bowls in which he played and won All-NFL honors five years straight. When his football career ended before the 1972 season because of several significant knee injuries, he was the NFL's all-time leader in kickoff return yards and had compiled 9,435 combined net yards, 4,956 yards rushing, and 336 points scored.

After his football career ended, Gale became assistant athletic director at the University of Kansas (1972–1976), where he also completed his degree in physical education. After earning a master's degree in educational administration, he served as athletic director at Southern Illinois University (1976–1981). In 1981, he moved to Chicago and launched Sayers and Sayers Enterprises, a sports marketing and public relations firm. In 1984, he founded a computer supplies business, Sayers Computer Source, which became very successful. His entrepreneurship earned him the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and induction into the Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame. He also was in demand as a motivational speaker.

Gale was generous to his community, fundraising and supporting organizations such as the Better Boys Foundation, The Cradle (adoption agency), Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, and Junior Achievement.

In addition to writing I Am Third (1970, with Al Silverman), he wrote a second autobiography, Sayers: My Life and Times (2007, with Fred Mitchell), and an instructional publication, Offensive Football, which addresses the fundamentals of football offensive strategies.

Gale died on September 23, 2020, after living several years with dementia.

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