Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers, one of the most electrifying players in NFL history, died Wednesday. He was 77.
Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker announced Sayers' death. No cause was provided.
"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 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.
"The 'Kansas Comet' burst onto the scene in the National Football League and captured the attention of all of America. Despite playing only 68 NFL games because of an injury-shortened career, Gale was a clear-cut -- and first-ballot -- Hall of Famer for his accomplishments on the field and for the man of character he was in life.
"The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Gale. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Ardie, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will fly at half-staff until he is laid to rest."
Sayers was a lightning bolt in the Bears backfield, with the ability to take it the distance with every touch. Give Sayers an inch and he took 50 yards. During his ridiculous run with the Bears from 1965-1971, the running back epitomized the phrase "keeps defenders awake at night." Sayers struck fear in the hearts of tacklers every time he touched the ball.
Like a jazz player in a football uniform, Sayers could hit any note at any time. The RB could blow past defensive backs, cut a linebacker out of his shoes, blast through a defensive lineman, or tiptoe through the slightest of holes to daylight.
Sayers played in seven NFL seasons, seeing the field in just two games each of his final two years due to injury. In just five years, however, Sayers had been so dominant that no one questions his place in the Hall of Fame.
"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," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "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."
Despite an injury-shortened career, the Kansas Comet tallied 4,956 yards and 39 TDs on 991 totes, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He was named a first-team All-Pro each of his first five seasons, and a four-time Pro Bowler. Sayers was named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1965 and won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1969 after suffering a right knee injury the previous season.
Sayers was named to the 1960s All-Decade Team, the 50th anniversary All-Time team, the 75th anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL 100th anniversary All-Time Team.