Chicago Bears legend and Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers has died at the age of 77.
The Hall of Fame confirmed his passing in a statement on Wednesday.
“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 team-mate 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.”
Hall of Famer and @ChicagoBears Legend Gale Sayers has passed away at the age of 77.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) September 23, 2020
A fourth overall pick by the Chicago Bears in 1965 after racking up 4,020 all-purpose yards at the University of Kansas, Sayers made league history as a rookie.
Sayers scored an NFL-record 22 all-purpose touchdown in his first season, including six in one game.
He earned four Pro Bowl selections and five first-team All-Pro nods in his decorated career and came back from an injury-shortened 1968 season to lead the league in rushing yards in 1969.
His efforts in that season earned him the Comeback Player of the Year award but further injuries cut his career short.
Sayers retired before the 1972 season and was inducted into Canton as a first-ballot Hall of Famer five years later.
Labelled “the greatest player I’ve ever seen” by fellow Bears legend Mike Ditka, Sayers was named to the NFL’s 50th, 75th and 100th Anniversary teams. His jersey number 40 is retired by the Bears.