Gale Sayers burst upon the pro football scene in 1965 with
the kind of an impact that the sport had not felt in many years. It is difficult
to imagine a more dynamic debut than the one he enjoyed as a rookie. In his
first heavy pre-season action, he raced 77 yards on a punt return, 93 yards on a
kickoff return, and then startled everyone with a 25-yard scoring pass against
the Los Angeles Rams.
In regular season, he scored four touchdowns, including a 96-yard game
breaking kickoff return, against the Minnesota Vikings. And, in the next-to-last
game, playing on a muddy field that would have stalled most runners, Gale scored
a record-tying six touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers. Included in his
sensational spree were an 80-yard pass-run play, a 50-yard rush and a 65-yard
punt return. For the entire season, Gale scored 22 touchdowns and 132 points,
both then-rookie records.
Quiet, unassuming, and always ready to compliment a teammate for a key block, Sayers continued to sizzle in 1967 and well into the 1968 season. Then, in the ninth game, Sayers suffered a knee injury that required immediate surgery.
After a tortuous rehabilitation program, Gale came back in 1969 in a most spectacular manner, winding up with his second 1,000-yard rushing season and universal Comeback of the Year honors. But injuries continued to take their toll and, just before the 1972 season, Gale finally had to call it quits.
In his relatively short career, he compiled a record that can never be forgotten. His totals show 9,435 combined net yards, 4,956 yards rushing, and 336 points scored. At the time of his retirement he was the NFL's all-time leader in kickoff returns. He won All-NFL honors five straight years and was named Offensive Player of the Game in three of the four Pro Bowls in which he played.