(670 The Score) Gale Sayers, a Hall of Fame running back and an all-time great Chicago Bear, has died at 77, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Wednesday morning. He had been battling dementia.
Sayers played seven seasons with the Bears from 1965-'71, earning his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977 as the youngest inductee. A star at Kansas, Sayers was also inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
A series of injuries caused Sayers' career to be shortened by retirement at the age of 28.
“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.
“Coach Halas said it best, when presenting Gale for induction at the Hall of Fame: ‘His like will never be seen again.’"
"The NFL family lost a true friend today with the passing of Gale Sayers," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "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."
Sayers scored six touchdowns in a game on Dec. 12, 1965, at Wrigley Field. He's fifth on the Bears' all-time rushing list despite playing just seven seasons.
"Give me 18 inches of daylight," Sayers once said. "That's all I need."
Bears founder George Halas presented Sayers into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. Sayers' jersey No. 40 is retired by the Bears organization.
"If you wish to see perfection as a running back, you had best get a hold of a film of Gale Sayers," Halas said. "He was poetry in motion. His like will never be seen again."
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.