Gale Sayers, an NFL icon who spent seven seasons with the Chicago Bears, has passed away at 77 after living with dementia.
On Wednesday, Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker announced the tragic news in a statement.
“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,” 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.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell added, “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.”
Born in Wichita, Kansas, Sayers played college football at the University of Kansas, where he rushed for 2,675 yards and was recognized three times as a first-team All–Big Eight selection.
In the 1965 NFL Draft, Sayers was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round, fourth overall, and played with the team until his retirement in 1971.
Despite playing for just seven seasons, Sayers, also known as the “Kansas Comet,” is considered one of the greatest running backs in the history of the NFL.
In 1977, at the age of 34, he became the youngest player ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Per TMZ, Sayers was diagnosed with dementia several years ago, and his condition worsened over the years. The outlet reports his wife Ardie said last year that her husband was struggling to move and speak.
Earlier this year, Sayers’ brother Roger discussed Gale’s health issues in a phone interview with the Kansas City Star. Roger said it’s “tough to build memories all your life, and the next thing you know, you don’t remember anything.”
In addition to his wife, Sayers is survived by his five sons and a daughter.
Our condolences go out to the Sayers family for their loss.