GALE SAY­ERS

1943-2020

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - Sporting Green - By An­drew Seligman and Jim Litke An­drew Seligman and Jim Litke are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

Gale Say­ers, the Chicago Bears’ daz­zling run­ning back whose in­jury-short­ened ca­reer made him the youngest player in­ducted into the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame, died Wed­nes­day af­ter a long de­cline in health that in­cluded de­men­tia. He was 77. Say­ers’ en­dur­ing friend­ship with Brian Pic­colo be­came the sub­ject of “Brian’s Song,” a 1971 made-forTV movie that re­mains one of the most popular sports movies of all time.

Gale Say­ers, the daz­zling and elu­sive run­ning back who en­tered the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame de­spite the briefest of ca­reers and whose fame ex­tended far be­yond the field for decades thanks to a friend­ship with a dy­ing Chicago Bears team­mate, has died. He was 77.

Nick­named “The Kansas Comet” and con­sid­ered among the best open­field run­ners the game has ever seen, Say­ers died Wed­nes­day, ac­cord­ing to the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame.

Rel­a­tives of Say­ers had said he was di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia.

“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,” Bears Chair­man Ge­orge Mc­Caskey said in a state­ment.

“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.“

Say­ers was a blur to NFL de­fenses, ghost­ing wouldbe tack­lers or zoom­ing by them like few run­ning backs or kick re­turn­ers be­fore or since. Yet it was his rock­steady friend­ship with Pic­colo, de­picted in the film “Brian’s Song,” that marked him as more than a sports star.

“He was the very essence of a team player: quiet, unas­sum­ing and al­ways ready to com­pli­ment a team­mate for a key block,” Hall of Fame Pres­i­dent David Baker said. “Gale was an extraordin­ary man who over­came a great deal of ad­ver­sity dur­ing his NFL ca­reer and life.”

Say­ers be­came a stock­bro­ker, sports ad­min­is­tra­tor, busi­ness­man and phi­lan­thropist for sev­eral in­ner­city Chicago youth ini­tia­tives af­ter his pro foot­ball ca­reer was cut short by se­ri­ous in­juries to both knees.

“Gale was one of the finest men in NFL his­tory and one of the game’s most ex­cit­ing play­ers,” NFL Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell said. “Gale was an elec­tri­fy­ing and elu­sive run­ner who thrilled fans ev­ery time he touched the ball.”

Say­ers was a two­time All­Amer­i­can at Kansas and in­ducted into the Col­lege Foot­ball Hall of Fame. He was se­lected by Chicago with the fourth pick over­all in 1965, and his ver­sa­til­ity pro­duced div­i­dends and high­light­reel slaloms through op­pos­ing de­fenses right from the start.

He tied one NFL record with six touch­downs in a game against the 49ers and set an­other with 22 touch­downs in his first sea­son: 14 rush­ing, six re­ceiv­ing, one punt and one kick­off re­turn. Say­ers was a unan­i­mous choice for Of­fen­sive Rookie of the Year.

As­so­ci­ated Press 1970

Bettmann Archive

Hall of Fame run­ning back Gale Say­ers of the Chicago Bears left many de­fen­sive play­ers in his wake.

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