Chicago Bears legend Gale Sayers dead at 77

Sayers, an NFL icon and Hall of Fame player made famous by a friendship, was 'The Kansas Comet.'

NFL legend and Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers has died at the age of 77.

Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker announced his passing this morning. No cause of death 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.”

Pittsburgh Steelers v Chicago Bears
In this 2009 photo, Hall of Fame Chicago Bears Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers (right) share a laugh on the sidelines before a game between the Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Sayers played for seven seasons in the NFL. Known as “The Kansas Comet,” Sayers racked up 4,956 yards and 39 TDs on 991 totes, averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

He was on a first-team All-Pro for five seasons and a four-time Pro-Bowler.

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Sayers’ friendship with his Bears teammate Brian Piccolo, who stricken with terminal cancer after turning pro in 1965, was turned into an ABC Movie of the Week in 1971. Brian’s Song won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Program – Drama or Comedy. The film still has a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Sayers was portrayed in the film by Billy Dee Williams, and it made Sayers a household name. James Caan played Piccolo.

Brian’s Song was remade in 2001 starring Mekhi Phifer as Sayers and Sean Maher as Piccolo.

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In his statement, Baker contended that Sayers was a “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,” Baker said. “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.”

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