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Is Gale Sayers the Best?

Updated on September 26, 2017

This is the third installment of the greatest running backs in NFL history that I have been publishing the last few days. I will be publishing one per day for the next 7 days for a total of ten, narrowing down who, in my opinion, is the greatest back of all time. If this is the first hub you have read about these great backs, be sure to check out the others. There is a Voting poll for who you think is the greatest back of all time on the first installment. Please take the time to go there and vote if you haven't already. At the end of these volumes I will post another hub stating who I think is the greatest back of all time. Your votes will however be the determinating factor in who, in the hubbers eyes, is the Greatest Running Back of all time.

Our third candidate is Gale Sayers


Gale Sayer was born on May 30, 1943 in Wichita, Kansas. He went to High School at Omaha Central High School. Sayers started out playing middle linebacker. He later was shifted to the running back position and earned All Mid-Western All American High School football honors. During his senior season he set a state long jump record of 24'11 3/4". He signed letters of consent to 17 different colleges during his senior season, including colleges like Notre Dame, Iowa State, Northwestern and Kansas. His top two colleges that he wanted to attend were Kansas and Iowa, but after the Head Coach of Iowa, Jerry Burns, couldn't find the time to meet him during his visit to Iowa he decided to attend the University of Kansas. During his sophomore campaign he set a record for the longest rush for 99 yards against the University of Nebraska. In his junior year he rushed for 941 yards and gained over 2,000 yards total, winning him the "Back of the Year" award from the Big 8 college conference. Throughout his college career he rushed for a total of 2.675 yards and 3,917 all-purpose yards. He was named All-American tailback twice. during his time at the University of Kansas and earned the moniker "The Kansas Comet".

Sayers was drafted in the first round of, what was then known as, the college draft by the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL and the Chicago Bears of the NFL. Despite Kansas City offering him more money, Sayers decided to go to the Bears, signing a 4 year contract worth $100,000 with a $50,000 signing bonus. During his rookie season he rushed for 1,374 yards and 2,272 all-purpose yards. He scored what was then a NFL record 22 touchdowns (14 rushing, 6 receiving, 1 punt return and 1 kick return). He also scored 6 touchdowns in one game that season, a record he shares with both Dub Jones and Ernie Nevers. He also won the Rookie of the Year award.

The next year he led the league in rushing with 1,231 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry with eight touchdowns. He also snagged 34 catches for 447 yards and two more touchdowns. He set yet another NFL record with 2,440 all-purpose yards and won the Pro Bowl Most Valuable Player award. The following season he only rushed for 880 yards due to shared carries with the late Brian Piccolo. Despite on scoring 7 rushing touchdowns and 1 receiving touchdown that year, he did manage to run back 3 kickoffs and 1 punt for touchdowns. During the 1968 season Sayers was leading the league in rushing with 856 yard when he abruptly went down in week 9 due to torn ligaments in his right knee. The next year, although not having the same dynamic agility due to the knee injury, he won the rushing title with 1,032 rushing yards. The Bears finished this season with their worst record in team history winning only 1 out of 14 games.

In 1970 he suffered yet another injury, this time to his left knee, in the second game of the season. This injury put him out for the rest of the season. He went through another rehabilitation, but was unsuccessful in returning due to a loss of speed. He then retired in the 1971 season, finishing his career with a total of 4,956 rushing yards, 1,307 receiving yards, 39 rushing touchdowns and 9 receiving touchdowns. Do take into account that he was sidelined for 6 games. Also note that the NFL season was only 14 games then. So 850 yards is similar to a 1,000 yard season these days. Over only 64 games Gale Sayers Rushed for a total of 4,866 yards which is an average of 76 yards per game. Even though his career was shortened by unfortunate injuries, Gale will definitely be remember as one of the greatest ever in any case.

Gale Sayers Achievements are listed below:

  • High School All Mid-Western
  • High School All American
  • 2 time College All American
  • #1 NFL All Time Kick Return Leader
  • Retired NFL Bears Jersey #40
  • Walter Camp Man of the Year Award
  • Pro Bowl MVP
  • Rookie of The Year 1965
  • 6 NFL Records
  • NFL's 1960's All Decade Team
  • NFL's 75th Anniversary Team
  • NFL Hall of Fame (youngest ever to be inducted)

Career Statistics

  • 4,956 rushing yards
  • 1,307 receiving yards
  • 2,781 kickoff return yards
  • 39 rushing touchdowns
  • 9 receiving touchdowns
  • 1 passing touchdown
  • 6 kickoff return touchdowns
  • 2 punt return touchdowns

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