Gale Sayers was born on May 30, 1943, in Kansas to a family whose only bread winner was an auto mechanic. In 1951, Sayers and his family moved to Omaha where he grew up to an athletic child and showed natural ability in a number of sports, especially American football.
Playing middle linebacker for Omaha’s Central High School’s varsity team, Sayers became a part of the All-Mid-western and All-American high school teams in his senior year. Sayers also stood out in track and field and set a state record of long jump. However, football continued to be his first preference and he returned to Kansas.
Joining the University of Kansas, Gale Sayers performed poorly in his academics but continued to shine on the field. Rushing for 1,125 yards in his sophomore year with an average of 7.2 yards per carry, followed by 941 and 678 yards in his junior and senior years respectively, Sayers earned himself the All-American honours in two consecutive seasons. For his magnificent performance and contribution to the game, Sayers was given the nick name of the ‘Kansas Comet’.
Focusing entirely on his career as a football player, Sayer failed his Bachelor’s degree and juggled between offers from NFL and the American Football League. Choosing the Chicago Bears over the Kansas City Chiefs, Sayers became a part of Pro Football and played running back for the team.
Kicking off his debut with a total of 867 yards and 22 touchdowns during his rookie season, Sayers earned himself NFL’s scoring title for the year along with the honor of Rookie of the Year. Scoring 6 touchdowns, 316 yards and 36 points, Sayers single-handedly won the game for the Chicago Bears against San Francisco in 1965, earning himself a trip to the Pro Bowl.
To prove his consistency after the rookie season, Sayers returned to the league in 1966 with a total score of 1,231 yards and an average of 5.4 yards. Hence, he was selected to play in the Pro Bowl once again. The following year, he managed to earn All-Pro honours for a second time with a score of 880 yards.
Sayers’ career came to an unexpected halt when the football player ruptured his right knee after a hit from the San Francisco cornerback in 1968 and was forced to end his season mid-way. However, he managed to recover in time for the 1969 season and won his second rushing title. For his commitment towards his game and a good performance, Sayers was given the award for NFL’s Most Courageous Player.
After a spectacular performance throughout his career, Gale Sayers retired before the 1972 season after his injured left knee limited him to only two games in the two preceding years. In the brief time when he was a football player, Sayers was voted to the All-Pro team five times. In 1977, he was also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the mere age of 34, the youngest person to achieve this.
Following the end of his Football career, Sayers returned to the University of Kansas to complete his undergraduate degree and simultaneously work as assistant athletic director. Later on completing his master’s degree in Educational Administration, the former athlete became associated with organisations such as the American Cancer Society. In 2007, he set up his own project, Gale Sayers Foundation, to provide educational opportunities to underprivileged students.