By Justin Lyons
Hall of Fame running back and Chicago Bears legend Gale Sayers died Wednesday at the age of 77.
Sayers played seven seasons, all as a Chicago Bear, racking up 4,956 rushing yards and 39 rushing touchdowns. He played his final regular season game in 1971, retired in 1972 and became the youngest Hall of Fame inductee in NFL history in 1977 at the age of 34.
“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. He was the very essence of a team player – quiet, unassuming and always ready to compliment a teammate for a key block,” Baker said. “Gale was an extraordinary man who overcame a great deal of adversity during his NFL career and life.”
Nicknamed the “Kansas Comet,” Sayers was an easy selection for the Hall of Fame despite injuries shortening his career.
Current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also released a statement saying Sayers will be remembered for his inspiration and kindness.
“We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Ardie and their family. Our thoughts are with his teammates, the Bears organization, the many fans who remember him as a football player and the many more people who were touched by Gale’s spirit and generosity,” Goodell said.
Williams, who played Sayers in the film, tweeted, “My heart is broken over the loss of my dear friend, Gale Sayers. Portraying Gale in ‘Brian’s Song’ was a true honor and one of the nightlights of my career. He was an extraordinary human being with the the kindest heart. My sincerest condolences to his family.”
Caan, who played Piccolo, tweeted that he was proud to have known Sayers and also offered his love and condolences to the family.
The New York Times reported in 2017 that Sayers had been battling dementia, but that didn’t stop him from attending the 100th year anniversary celebration of the Chicago Bears in June 2019.
Teammate Dick Butkus, who joined Sayers on stage at that celebration, said,”[I] will miss a great friend who helped me become the player I became because after practicing and scrimmaging against Gale I knew I could play against anybody. We lost one of the best Bears ever, and more importantly, we lost a great person.”