Gale Sayers, the Pro Football Hall of Famer and Chicago Bears legend who played both as a halfback and return specialist in the NFL, has passed away at the age of 77 after years of battle with dementia.
While the footballer only participated in seven seasons due to his knee condition, he managed to secure his name on the list of top NFL players by averaging five yards per carry.
In the year 1977, Sayers, who was at that time just 34 years old, became the youngest footballer ever to get inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Following the football legend’s death, sports figures, including the Hall of Fame president David Baker, have paid a tribute to “one of the greatest to ever play this game.”
“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,” Mr. Baker said.
“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.”
Besides marking his name in NFL history, Sayers’ story also made it on screen in a tear-jerking movie titled Brian’s Song.
The 1971 movie revolves around the life of Sayers, played by Billy Dee Williams, and his teammate Brian Piccolo, played by James Caan, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Despite the racial segregation of players at the time, Sayers and Piccolo managed to forge a strong bond. While Piccolo assisted Sayers throughout his knee recovery journey, Sayers stood by Piccolo’s side when the footballer got diagnosed with terminal cancer. In 1970, Piccolo died of terminal cancer.
Following his 7-season-long football career, Sayers became a sports administrator and a stockbroker while shifting his focus on philanthropy with an emphasis on youth initiatives in Chicago.
Years prior to Sayers’ passing, the former Chicago Bears star was diagnosed with dementia, a condition that his wife and doctors partially blamed on his football career.
“Like the doctor at the Mayo Clinic said, ‘Yes, a part of this has to be on football.
’ It wasn’t so much getting hit in the head.It’s just the shaking of the brain when they took him down with the force they play the game in,” Ardythe Sayers said in an interview with Associated Press back in 2017.
May he rest in peace.
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