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Gale Sayers, Bears legend and Hall Of Famer, dies at 77

“Just give me 18 inches of daylight; that’s all I need.” ~ Gale Sayers

Gale Sayers Running for 96-Yard Touchdown

Gale Sayers, Chicago Bears Hall of Famer and one of the most electrifying men to ever play the game of football, has died at the age of 77.

Sayers was suffering from dementia the last several years.

Even though his playing career was cut short by injury, his mark on the game was felt, and his legend will live on forever.

The “Kansas Comet” was was named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1965, he was named a first-team All-Pro each of his first five seasons, he was a four-time Pro Bowler, and he won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1969 after tearing up his right knee in 1968.

Sayers injured his knee midway though his fourth season, a season in which he averaged a career best 6.2 yards per carry and 95.1 rushing yards per game, and while he fought back to play the full 14 games the following year, injuries held him to only 2 games each in 1970 and 1971.

He’s not only one of the greatest Chicago Bears of all-time, he’s one of the greatest in the history of the NFL.

Sayers was named to the 1960s All-Decade Team, the league’s 50th anniversary All-Time team, their 75th anniversary All-Time Team, and the NFL’s 100th anniversary All-Time Team.

Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears Making a Running Catch

He was the youngest man ever inducted into the Hall OF Fame at 34 when he went in as a member of the Class of 1977.

Pro Football Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker issued the following statement about Sayers’ passing.

“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. 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 “Kansas Comet” burst onto the scene in the National Football League and captured the attention of all of America. 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.

The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Gale. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Ardie, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will fly at half-staff until he is laid to rest.”

Chicago Bears Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Here’s the statement on Sayers’ passing from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The NFL family lost a true friend today with the passing of Gale Sayers. 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.

We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Ardie, and their family. Our thoughts are with his teammates, the Bears organization, the many fans who remember him as a football player and the many more people who were touched by Gale’s spirit and generosity.

Inductees to the Football Hall of Fame

Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey issued this statement.

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.

Coach [George] Halas said it best, when presenting Gale for induction at the Hall of Fame: ‘His like will never be seen again.’

On behalf of the McCaskey family, we offer our sincerest condolences to [his wife] Ardie and the entire Sayers family.

Gale Sayers with Coaches
Bears Gayle Sayers Rushing During A Game
Gale Sayers - Chicago Bears - File Photos Photo by Bob Verlin/Getty Images