Behind the Bronze: Gale Sayers

11/02/2011

Only 267 bronze busts reside in the Hall of Fame Gallery inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. They "immortalize" the greatest players, coaches, and contributors that this game has produced. Each week during the 2011 NFL Season we will sit down for a Q&A with one of these legends.

Gale Sayers, Class of 1977



Gale Sayers' Hall of Fame bio>>>

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR HOBBIES?
When I played the game of pro football back in the 1960s there wasn’t a lot of money being made. So, I had to do a lot of things after I left football to make a living. I told a lot of players as you prepare to play, you must prepare to quit. And, I did that. I became a stockbroker, I did my years with the Chicago Bears, I became Assistant A.D. at Kansas and then Director of Athletics at Southern Illinois University back in 1983, and then I moved back to Chicago and started my computer company. So, I like to work. I really do. Again, money wasn’t that great back then and we had to go out and get jobs.

I play a little golf now and then but other than that, I’m working. 

LAST BOOK YOU READ:
My own, “The Life and Times of Gale Sayers.”

FAVORITE MUSIC:
I like jazz. I’m big fan of Darius Rucker, I met him a long time ago. He’s a black country western singer. I really like his music.

FAVORITE MOVIE:
Well, my favorite movie is “The Book of Eli”with Denzel Washington. I watch it four or five times a month.

FAVORITE FOOD:
My wife’s a very, very good cook. I like catfish, carp, and fried chicken. Whatever she puts on the table I’m quite sure I’ll like it.

FAVORITE NFL TEAM AS A CHILD:
I didn’t have an NFL team. We were kind of poor and we didn’t have TV. I liked to watch Jim Brown run when he was out there.

FAVORITE NFL STADIUM OTHER THAN WRIGLEY FIELD OR SOLDIER FIELD:
Well, I’ve been asked that question many, many times and I’ve always said, ‘a football field is 100 yards long and 50 yards wide.’ It didn’t make any difference where I played the game. I went out there and I knew what I had to do on that football field and I did it.

WHY DID YOU PICK NO. 40?
I didn’t pick No. 40. When I was in grade school, and high school, and in college, I wore No. 48. I went to the Bears and there was a fella named Andy Livingston and he had No. 48 and he wouldn’t give it to me. No big deal. He had No. 48 so I said ‘give me a number.’ I put on No. 40 and did my thing.

DID YOU HAVE ANY PRE-GAME SUPERSTITIONS?
I really didn’t. I knew what I had to do. I ran back punt returns, I ran back kickoff returns, I ran from the line of scrimmage, and I caught passes. I knew that when I got out on that field, I had a lot of work to do.  I told myself, ‘get yourself in shape because this is the National Football League.’ And that’s what I did. I went out there and I got myself in shape so when the whistle blew and we were out on the field, I didn’t even care how many times they gave me the ball. Just give me the ball and I’ll do my thing.


Watch: Gale Sayers recalls his favorite NFL moment.

WHAT’S BETTER ABOUT THE NFL TODAY THAN WHEN YOU PLAYED?
Personally, there’s nothing better about the NFL. When we played the game, we went out and played. I think the players back then, they cared more about the players they were playing against. Again, money wasn’t that great and we weren’t trying to hurt anybody. I think a lot of times today you have someone trying to hurt somebody. We knew these people had families and they were out there playing the game. We played hard. And when you wanted to hit someone, you hit them hard but you weren’t trying to hurt anyone. I think we played as hard as anyone played, even today’s player.

FAVORITE ATHLETE EVER IN ANY SPORT:
I think the one that I really looked up to was Muhammad Ali. He was unbelievable; he was someone when he was in that ring he’d box and he very seldom got hit hard because he had so much movement. He made it a great sport to watch. I’d go to a lot of his fights.

Before the game I scored 6 touchdowns, I was at a Muslim restaurant and he came in, he only lived four blocks from me at the time. He said, ‘how you doing?’ and I said, ‘I’m fine we got a game against the 49ers this week,’ and I went out to score 6 TDs.

TOUGHEST PLAYER YOU FACED:
There were a lot of tough players back when I played. Ray Nitschke was an outstanding football player and the Green Bay Packers had great football players on that team – Willie Davis, Nitschke, Bart Starr, and Paul Hornung.

Personally, and don’t think I’m crazy but Dick Butkus hit me as hard in practice as anybody in a game. When we had to scrimmage the defense in practice, I had to buckle up the helmet because I knew he was coming. And, he knew I was coming. He never gave up, he never gave up and I knew that. We had some great battles on that football field.

WHAT MAKES YOU MOST PROUD ABOUT YOUR HALL OF FAME CAREER?
I guess it was only the 68 ball games. I was very, very proud of my career and I think a lot of people thought I shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame and I probably thought that a couple of times too. But, I went out there and did the best I could. After I got injured for the first time, I came back and led the league in rushing and made all-pro again.

WHEN IF EVER DID YOU REALIZE YOU MAY SOMEDAY MAKE THE HALL OF FAME?
Well, I didn’t think I’d make it. But, I was on vacation with my wife and got a call from the Hall of Fame. I thought it’d never happened. I’m glad it did happen, I really am. It’s just a great honor.

WAS GEORGE HALAS YOUR ONLY CHOICE AS A PRESENTER?
He was my only choice. I wanted him to present me because we had a great relationship. If I had problems, I could go to him and talk about my problems He was the person I wanted to give me to honor me as I got into the Hall of Fame.

IF YOU COULD DO YOUR ENSHRINEMENT SPEECH OVER TODAY, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY DIFFERENTLY?
That’s a tough question. I think I would probably prepare more. Buddy Young was a great friend of mine and he helped me get into the NFL. I probably would have given him more credit for my opportunity in the National Football League. He was a great mentor of mine.

WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OFF THE FOOTBALL FIELD?
Preparing myself to live after football and I did a lot of things to get me ready for my life after football. There are many, many players who didn’t do that and are hurting right now and need help. I’m trying to help some of them. But, I prepared myself to face the challenge off the football field.
 



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