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Friday, June 29, 2012

In the Dirt With...Gale Sayers

When Gale Sayers was picked by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the NFL Draft in 1965, he was already a college football star.  His career at University of Kansas resulted in 2,675 yards rushing and 3,917 all-purpose yards gained, and a two-time selection as All-American.   Sayers possessed powerful athletic skill given his stature and his speed had earned him the nickname “The Kansas Comet.”  He was poised for greatness and that is exactly what George Halas expected.

Sayers didn’t disappoint.  In his rookie year with the Bears, he scored 22 touchdowns; six of them in the mud on December 12, 1965 against the San Francisco 49ers in a decisive 61-20 victory at Wrigley Field.  Halas was known for hating to play rookies and kept Sayers off the bench for the first two games, but once he put Sayers in on October 3, 1965, there was no mistaking that, in Sayers, Halas had a powerhouse.  In his regular season debut against the Green Bay Packers on October 3, 1965, Sayers made the only two Chicago touchdowns and had more yards rushing, receiving and returning than any other player on either team.  Two games later, on October 17th, Sayers would score an unbelievable four touchdowns, one on a 96 yard kickoff return.  In his rookie year, Sayers would score in all but one of the 12 games in which he played, earning Rookie of the Year honors.

In his next six seasons, Sayers would continue to shine in the NFL, winning four Pro Bowl invites, five All-Pro honors, and three Pro Bowl MVP honors.  He’s been named to both the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team.  He has long been considered one of college football’s greatest open field runners and is most definitely an NFL legend.  Sayers was named to both the College Football and Professional Football Halls of Fame, and is the youngest player ever inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sayers will tell you he was just doing what he was supposed to do:  dedicating himself to his craft and giving his team his all.  Dedication, hard work, loyalty; these are just some of the many outstanding characteristics of Gale Sayers.  Love of God and family are two others.  If you asked him what made him so special, Sayers would tell you he is not at all special but that he was just doing his best and making the most with all of God’s blessings.

His strong ethic of hard work and dedication carried him beyond the football field.  While he is famous for his steadfast friendship with his former Bears’ teammate, the late Brian Piccolo, he also went on to coach, became a stockbroker, and eventually founded a successful technology services firm.

“To whom much is given, much is expected.”  In my conversations with Sayers and his wife of nearly 40 years, Ardie, I’ve learned that above all else, Sayers is grateful for all he has accomplished and achieved in his life, and both he and Ardie have a strong sense of social responsibility, believing giving back is not only important, but required of them.

Meeting Gale Sayers was, for me, a milestone moment.  The first book I ever purchased was the Scholastic version of Brian’s Song and I was impressed at the tender age of nine with the bond of friendship between Sayers and Piccolo.  I never forgot that lesson of loyalty and compassion and, as a 49-year old adult, was in awe of the man when I first met him.  Sayers is a quiet man, not prone to a whole lot of words, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something to say.  On the contrary, Sayers is educated and well-versed in many areas, not the least of which is philanthropy and the importance of leading by example.

While working hard to build his very successful corporation, Sayers and his wife founded the Gale Sayers Center which endeavors to inspire, motivate, and educate the inner city youth of Chicago.  To fulfill that commitment, the center offers a strong educational after-school learning program serving adolescent children that includes computer classrooms, a public speaking program personally developed by Sayers, and a mentoring and motivational program utilizing the skills of some of the best business, civic and sports leaders to reach, motivate and inspire the children to achieve greatness.

In addition to his own foundation, Sayers also works closely with The Cradle Adoption Agency, and the Better Boys Foundation, among others.  He is also the author of three books.  His first book, an autobiography titled I Am Third was the catalyst to the book and movie Brian’s Song.  He also co-authored Papa Bear:  The Life and Legacy of George Halas with Jeff Davis, and Sayers:  My Life and Times with Fred Mitchell.  It is my great fortune to be writing his next book with him on football then and now.

AllStarInc is very fortunate to have Sayers as a client and we love working with him and his wife, Ardie.  He is currently appearing Wednesdays through Sundays at the Art of Music Store in the Mandalay Bay Mall in Las Vegas for the next few months.  This weekend, Sayers will be appearing at the Chicago Sun-Times Sports Collectibles Convention in Chicago, Illinois.  If you are in the area, please stop in to say hello and meet this legendary human being.
Copyright © 2012 Korinne M Jackman ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Gale Sayers appears Saturday, June 30th at the Chicago Sun-Times Sports Collectibles Convention, Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 North River Road, Rosemont, Illinois 60018 from Noon until 1:30 p.m.

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