Gale Sayers draws emotional reaction at Bears celebration

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The Bears were able to celebrate this weekend, pulling together the triumph and the joy of 100 years of football.

But because one of their own is struggling, it was bittersweet for some of the assembled legends.

Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers, who is battling dementia, drew a huge roar from the assembled crowd as he was brought onto stage in a wheelchair, according to the Associated Press.

The 76-year-old Sayers wiped his eyes as old teammate Dick Butkus and others stood on stage clapping for him as he was introduced.

That’s a tough thing,” Butkus said. “I call and check on him quite frequently, and it’s a sad deal. You’ve just got to be thankful with what you’ve got. I’ve got my problems with neuropathy and my balance. But I’ve got no pain. At least I still know who I am. I’m happy about that.”

Sayers was among the six Hall of Famers and 230 former and current players and coaches there. And since the event was given to nostalgia, those in attendance marveled at the skills of the “Kansas Comet.”

“He looked like he was gliding,” former Bears coach Mike Ditka said of Sayers. “I mean, the field was muddy. Everybody was slipping and sliding, except him. It was the most unbelievable exhibition I’ve seen in the history of the game. There probably was nothing like that. Just a great, great guy. Great guy. Gale was humble, never said a whole lot. But he was a super football player.”

Ditka was referring to a 1965 game in which Sayers scored six touchdowns, which helped him earn rookie of the year honors. Sayers made four Pro Bowls during his career, which was marked by so many graceful, highlight-reel runs before injuries cut his career short after just seven seasons.

After the recognition, Sayers slumped in his wheelchair as Mike Singletary wheeled him away, an emotional scene for those who witnessed it — just as his playing career was so moving for so many.

24 responses to “Gale Sayers draws emotional reaction at Bears celebration

  1. Age and the effects of dementia are a hell of a thing to hear. It is just sad to see what is happening to some of the most celebrated players of the game.

  2. Sayers was way ahead of his time. He was one of the all time greats. I’m talking about the greatest of the greats. He was 100% all natural too. I can’t imagine what he’d be like using all the supplements they use today, and the year round training. He’s probably one of the top 3 skilled guys to ever play, and he might even be the best.

  3. I can remember watching that 6 touchdown game on TV as a young kid. I knew I was watching something great, but really had no idea of the historic magnitude of it.

  4. I was 4 years old his rookie season, so obviously I never saw how truly great he was, but I’ve seen the highlights, and he was truly something special.

  5. Gale Sayers is the most electrifying player I ever saw. Only Barry Sanders comes close.

  6. Heartbreaking. The man is and always be the epitome of grace and style. Dementia or not.

  7. I recognize he is truly respected and loved by most NFL fans and the City of Chicago, including myself. This disease is hideous. I join most of you in praying for him and his family/friends. I grew up in awe and admiration of him. Nothing’s changed.

  8. Life time Packer fan but Sayers has nothing to do with what team you back.
    Short career but he was absolutely the GOAT.
    Just glad I got to see it.

  9. Yes but that wasn’t an assembled crowd – that was the kicking competition entrants.

  10. This whole 100 year anniversary is an wonderful thing. 230 of Chicago Bears players and coaches assembled over the week-end . Gayle Sayers was one of the many hall of fame players present. Could be karma for the founding franchise. Superbowl would top off a 100 year anniversary quite nicely. Go Bears.

  11. He was awesome. Getting old has its rewards, I got to see him play every year. The Packers and their fans salute you. You guys had sweetness too, like we’ve had Favre and Rogers. What a division.

  12. glenuendo says:
    June 9, 2019 at 2:44 pm
    Age and the effects of dementia are a hell of a thing to hear. It is just sad to see what is happening to some of the most celebrated players of the game.

    53 1 Rate This

    What kind of person downvotes this post?

  13. I took care of my Mom the last 7 years before she died at the age of 93. The last 4 she had dementia and its a terrible thing to watch someone you love become a shell of themselves.

    I’m glad Mr Sayers is well looked after.

  14. I watched Devin Hester highlights which led me to Gayle Sayers. Needlessly to say my Sayers HOF signed jersey is one of my most prized possessions.

    A truly special person and football player.

  15. To this writer, Gales Sayers was/is the greatest offensive player that has ever played in the NFL(that I’ve seen). LT is the only other player that you can mention in the same breath as Sayers. It’s #1-#1A deal; either way. Even as an 11yo watching that game, I knew I was witnessing greatness(Sanders was amazing;but he couldn’t catch and return kicks like GS). The sad part, other than him suffering a(too short)career-ending injury, is that the injury he suffered is very correctible nowadays.

  16. Kansas Comet, best RB i’ve ever witnessed other than Sweetness and of course Jim Brown..,

  17. There are probably about 5-10 running backs in the GOAT conversation. He’s DEFINITELY one of the best of those.

  18. I was 12 when Sayers was a rookie. The 49’er game in which he scored 6 TD’s was in Wrigley Field in the mud, but the game was blacked out in Chicago so I had to watch another game, but they kept showing the highlights at halftime and after the game was over. Electric, with that 5th gear that enabled him to pull away from everyone. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, including throwing a great pass on an option play, he was a lefty. As great as Hester was as a kickoff returner, Sayers was better. He never returned punts though. Thrilled I’ll always have the memories of all the great Bear halfbacks, Payton was a beast, but Sayers was magic!

  19. As a long-time Packer fan, just here paying respect to Gale Sayers, as remember watching him as a kid. Just electric, what a player.

  20. bears53 –

    Both Hester & Sayers returned punts.In the game Ditka mentioned against the 49ers in the mud, Gayle returned a punt for 85 yards and a TD.

  21. Everyone has said what needs to be said about the Great Gale Sayers (capital “G” of course). No matter what team you back, you’ve got to give credit to the Bears when it comes to honoring their alumni. Their greats seem to be also be really close and a tight knit group themselves, which helps. Kudos to the Bears and especially all of those Bears greats who still take time out of their lives to support each other, like Butkus and Sayers do. Just a good culture with those guys.

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