Even during the darkest times in Chicago Bears history, there have been beacons of brilliant light. Matt Forte during the sad decline of the past decade. Mark Carrier amidst the listless 1990s. Nobody personified that life better though than Gale Sayers. Amidst the steepest decline in franchise history between the late 1960s and early 1970, his incredible ability and story were an inspiration to many.
Even without a single playoff appearance or championship ring, legions of football fans still know who Sayers is. He’s the youngest member ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He made it in despite only playing 68 games in his career. A testament to the impact he made on the game.
Unfortunately like many players who suited up during those more violent eras of the game, Sayers is battling medical problems in his later years. Vahe Gregorian of The Kansas City Star breaks it down.
“Gale Sayers, who 40 years ago became the youngest player ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was diagnosed with dementia four years ago, joining nearly 50 million people worldwide.
But Ardie Sayers has come to believe its onset was years before that — possibly even as far back as when he returned to Kansas in a fund-raising capacity for a time in 2009.
While she considers Sayers, 73, physically healthy “as a horse” and notes he is working out with a trainer several days a week, she added, “That brain controls everything, doesn’t it?”
Some of his days are better than others.
On Wednesday, he scarcely spoke during a seven-hour visit by The Star.
But other times, he can hold halting conversations, and Ardie Sayers and friends believe there is a lot happening inside that he just can’t get out.”
Brain conditions from dementia to CTE are the ongoing plague for the NFL and sport of football in general. The league has taken massive steps in the past decade to both understand the conditions and find ways to make the game safer. Sayers is not the only former Bears icon dealing with dementia. Former quarterback Jim McMahon, captain of the legendary 1985 Super Bowl team, was diagnosed years ago.
At this point all people have left of Sayers in the sport are the highlights and the memories. They are truly special ones.
Nicknamed “the Kansas Comet” he struck the NFL like a bolt of lightning in 1965. Nobody had seen a skill set like his before. So fast, so athletic, so agile and so smooth. Defenses couldn’t touch him. His rookie season he compiled a ridiculous 22 touchdowns as a running back and return man. The fact he did it in just 12 games made the feat seem superhuman. In his first three seasons he scored an absurd 46 touchdowns.
If not for a bad knee injury suffered in 1968, there’s no telling how great he would’ve been. Sadly such is the nature of the sport. It takes a toll on the body and the mind, which is why one must love it. Sayers clearly did and says so all the time. Bears fan should never forget the contributions he made to the franchise, getting it through some dark times.