Gale Sayers in Football Uniform

Source: Bettmann / Getty

Gale Sayers, the former Chicago Bears star who became one of the greatest running backs in the history of football despite a limited pro career, has died. He was 77.

Sayers lived with dementia in his later years.

Known as the “Kansas Comet,” Sayers was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977 after only playing seven seasons with the Bears. He was the youngest player ever inducted into the Hall at just 34 years of age.

“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,” Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement. “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.”

Sayers was a five-time All-Pro who led the league in rushing twice, including one season after he tore his ACL and MCL late in the previous year. He also starred in college at the University of Kansas, becoming an All-American.

When he won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 1969, he passed it on to close friend and Bears teammate Brian Piccolo, who was dying of cancer. Their friendship was closely detailed in Sayers’ autobiography I Am Third as well as the TV movie, Brian’s Song featuring Billy Dee Williams and James Caan.

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