Former Chicago Bear and NFL legend, Gale Sayers, died at the age of 77 after suffering from dementia for six years.
"We lost one of the best Bears ever and more importantly we lost a great person," said Dick Buckus, a former teammate.
Sayers is considered one of the greatest running backs in the history of the NFL. Despite having career-ending injuries in both of his knees at 34 years old, he was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1977.
While he only played seven seasons, all with the Chicago Bears, his playing style impacted the game and granted him into the Hall of Fame as the youngest player ever.
Sayers was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame that same year, resulting in both his collegiate number, 48, and his professional number, 40, to be enshrined forever
"If you want to see perfection as a running back, you best get a hold of a film of Gale Sayers. He was poetry in motion. His like will never be seen again,” said George Halas, the former Bears head coach.
Sayers attended the University of Kansas on a football scholarship. He was widely known as the Kansas Comet with his electrifying speed, elusiveness and vision on the field.
While playing for the Kansas Jayhawks from 1962 to 1964, Sayers was recognized twice for the College Football All-American Team in 1963 and 1964, rushed for 2,675 yards and gained a Big Eight Conference record 4,020 all-purpose yards.
In the 1965 NFL Draft, Sayers was selected number four and instantly became a star player for the league. In his rookie season, Sayers tallied 2,272 all purpose yards and a rookie record of 22 touchdowns.
In his second season, Sayers became the first halfback to take the rushing title since 1949, as he gained 1,231 yards while averaging 5.4 yards a carry.
In the following season Sayers developed a friendship with teammate Brian Piccolo, after the Chicago Bears dropped its policy on segregating players by race in their hotels. This friendship lasted until Piccolo's early death at 26 years old due to cancer in 1970.
This friendship is retold in Sayers autobiography, “I am Third” and depicted in the TV movie “Brian’s Song” which helped push the message of brotherhood and love no matter what your skin color.
Through his seven year career, Sayers was a five-time All-Pro with 4,956 yards rushing and 9,435 combined net yards averaging five yards per carry for his career while twice leading the league in rushing.
Sayers legacy will live on as he is listed in the NFL record book a number of times and for his active philanthropist work in Chicago. Being regarded as one of the greatest means you are sent off like the star — or comet — you are.
"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," said Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner.