Gayle Sayers Was Like Michael Jackson On The Field, Bo Jackson In Our Sports Memories

Back in 2016, Kansas City Chiefs rookie wide receiver, Tyreek Hill, put on a historic showing with a three-touchdown performance. 

The fifth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State harkened memories of the original ankle breaker Gayle Sayers, by reaching the endzone via an 86-yard kick return TD off of a safety, a 3-yard TD rush, and a 3-yard TD reception. 

The Great Gayle Sayers Passes At 77

Sayers, the Kansas Comet was the last man to score a kickoff return TD, rush TD, and TD reception in the same game for the Chicago Bears during Week 5 of the 1965 season against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Hall of Fame running back’s feat stood for 51 years without contention. My Dad told me about Gayle Sayers before I was even old enough to see a Youtube clip validating his greatness and providing images to go with the stories I had been told. 

The Chicago Bears legend will forever be remembered for doing the impossible. Now that he has passed away at the age of 77, the sports world can begin to reconnect with an iconic player and generational talent who despite enduring a career full of major knee surgeries and only lasting five incredible seasons, left a legacy that still resonates in today’s wide open, NFL game. 

Sayers left the game too early. A shooting comet and an incomparable explosion of greatness with a wow factor that had defenders on skates and playing Twister. Sayers’ quick jog with the football gods is similar (in my humble opinion) to Bo Jackson’s short but historical run before a hip injury cut him down.

Bo and Gayle were going to destroy the record books, but the careers of both men and the unexpected injuries they endured, further confirm the accuracy of the phrase “the best ability is availability.” 

When these gridiron greats were creating masterpieces with speed, strength, desire and cutting back on bewildered defenders like a deeply receding hairline on an old man — there was no better athletic marvel to witness. 

Sayers retired in 1971 and six years later he became the youngest player ever inducted into the Pro  Football Hall of Fame at 34 years old. 

 “I left a long time before I wanted to leave. I wanted to play for 10 years and I played 68 ball games,” Sayers said in an interview. “But I enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun. I did my thing.”

Bears founder George Halas, who spent 64 seasons building the organization said this about Sayers at his Hall of Fame induction: 

Gayle Sayers, Magic in Motion. Teammates admired and respected him because he was always razor-sharp physically. If you wish to seek perfection you had best get a hold of a film of Gayle Sayers. 

In his later years, Sayers battled dementia which was probably accelerated by CTE, but the spirit of his fearlessness, creativity and game-changing ability running with the pigskin lives on in every back whose feet and legs create poetry in motion on the gridiron. 

List of Gayle Sayers’ Accomplishments 

  • Pro Bowl (19651967, 1969)
  • 5× First-team All-Pro (19651969)
  • NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1969)
  • NFL Rookie of the Year (1965)
  • NFL rushing yards leader (1966, 1969)
  • NFL 1960s All-Decade Team
  • NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • Chicago Bears No. 40 retired
  • 100 greatest Bears of All-Time
  • 2× Consensus All-American (1963, 1964)
  • 3× All-Big Eight (19621964)
  • Kansas Jayhawks No. 48 retired
JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.