Gale Sayers

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


College career and rookie NFL season
Sayers, raised in North Omaha, Nebraska, graduated from Omaha Central High School and was a two-time All-American player at the University of Kansas Sayers was drafted by the Chicago Bears. He was also drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and offered more money to play there, but he ultimately chose to play in Chicago. He won NFL Rookie of the Year honors in 1965 and was the only rookie at the time to accomplish the feat of scoring six touchdowns in a game. He finished his rookie year with 22 touchdowns.

First and second injuries
In his second season, despite being the focus of opposing defenses, Sayers led the league in rushing with 1231 yards.
In 1968 his season was ended prematurely in a game against the San Francisco 49ers when Sayers tore many ligaments in his right knee. He had surgery and rehabilitation, with the help of Brian Piccolo. In the 1969 season he led the league in rushing once again, but he lacked the lightning speed he once had.

In 1970, Sayers suffered a second knee injury, this time to his left knee. During his off time, he took classes at the University of New York to become a stockbroker and became the first black stockbroker in his company's history. After another rehabilitation period, he tried for a comeback, 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 during the 1971 campaign, and began a career as CEO of a computer company. In 1977, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1994, he had his uniform number, 40, retired at Soldier Field in Chicago. On the same evening, his contemporary Dick Butkus, a legendary Bears linebacker, was similarly honored. In 1999, despite the brevity of his career, he was ranked number 21 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

Devoted friendship, Sayers/Piccolo
His friendship with teammate Brian Piccolo, and Piccolo's struggle with the cancer that would eventually result in his death, became the subject of the legendary 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.

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