Hall of Famer Q&A with Gale Sayers

12/06/2001
Gale Sayers, who entered the Hall of Fame in 1977, scored 22 touchdowns in his rookie season of 1965, a record that still stands today.

Which defensive player in your career hit you the hardest? - Tom Clark
GS: Back when I played, we had many great players because we had fewer teams. People like Ray Nitschke of the Green Bay Packers, Deacon Jones of the L.A. Rams, Joe Schmidt of the Detroit Lions. But, I've said many times, that my teammate Dick Butkus had hit me as hard in practice as anybody in a game. He was a tremendous practice player and if you want to be good on Sunday, you had to do it in practice, and he didn't let up in practice. Well, I think the number one thing is that you have to have good people. People that are responsive to what you're saying. And you have to outline the script. We always used to talk about, it's like climbing a hill. You work like heck to go up there and as soon as you want to coast, you coast back down. A hill is going to your championships - that's the thing. And you can't ever be satisfied with what you've done because that's a part of it. And you have to have people responsive to that.

Dear Mr. Sayers, How do you want to be remembered as a player? - Gilbert Callahan
GS:
I think I want to be remembered as someone who went out every Sunday and tried to be the best player he could be. I was a player who ran back punt returns and kickoff returns, and ran from the line of scrimmage, and caught passes. I want to be remembered as someone who gave the fans an opportunity to come out and enjoy themselves.

Who stuck the nickname "Kansas Comet" on you? Was it while you were still in school or with the Bears? - Jim (Kansas Comet) Slaby, Algoma, Wis., P.S. - That nickname was stuck on me by our Parks & Rec. Director when I was just a kid.
GS:
"Kansas Comet" was stuck on me by the Director of Sports Information at the University of Kansas when I first came to Kansas back in 1961. They started calling me the "Kansas Comet" my sophomore year. Back then you couldn't play varsity as a freshman. So, my sophomore year, when I became a varsity player, they started calling me the "Kansas Comet."

Hello, Mr. Sayers! I am an eighth grade English teacher at an all-male private school, and we have just finished reading Brian's Song. We also watched the original movie version, and some of the students watched the remake last Sunday night. In your opinion, which actor (James Caan or Sean Maher) came closest to portraying the Brian that you knew during your playing days?
GS:
I think that both James Caan and Sean Maher did an excellent job of playing Brian. James Caan had his mannerisms down to a "T" and Sean did also. In the first movie, Brian got sick and died. In the second movie, they did, I guess I'd say, a better job of showing death. Thirty years ago you couldn't show death, but today you can show death and they did a much better job of showing that and they showed how he looked when he died. In that regard, Sean Maher did a better job of portraying Brian in that regard. But, for the most part, they both did a real fine job of portraying Brian. Do you still keep in touch with his family?

What is the dominant thing or things that stick out about Brian with you some 30 years after his death? The boys really enjoyed reading the play and watching the movie. What message would you like students to learn from the play and the movie? Thank you, and congratulations on a great career on and off the playing field. Best wishes, Pat Callahan, English teacher, St. Thomas Academy, Mendota Heights, Minn.

GS: I think the movie wasn't about football, it was about our friendship, and about two people getting along together, playing together for the same cause of trying to win football games and win a championship. So, that's what you should take from the movie - it's not about football. And also I think you take from the movie that athletes - they do care about their fellow man. So many people think that athletes want to hit a baseball, dunk a basketball, and knock someone down in football. But, when someone gets injured or gets hurt, we do care. We care about our fellow players and when Brian got sick, football was less important. You think about your families and your friends that are more important.

With 4,956 rushing yards in just 68 games, Sayers ranks fourth all-time for Chicago Bears running backs.

Hi Gale, I am a lifelong fan, having seen your NFL footage and Brian's Song several times. In my opinion you were the greatest open field running back in NFL history. What running back gets your vote for the best open field running ability? Best regards, Brady Augustine, San Clemente, Calif.
GS: When you talk about open field runners, there are two people that I have in mind … well there's probably more than that. O.J. Simpson was an outstanding open field runner. Barry Sanders was one of the better ones also. Today, you have Marshall Faulk. And I would probably put Eric Dickerson in there also. I like Barry Sanders, then probably O.J., then Marshall Faulk, then Eric Dickerson. But, those four people right there are tremendous open field runners.

Gale, If you never injured your knees, where do you think you would rank in all-time rushing, scoring, and touchdowns?
GS: It's hard to say. I gained 4,900 yards rushing and I only played 68 ball games, so it's difficult to say how far I would go up the ladder. But, it wasn't about yards, it wasn't about touchdowns, it wasn't about honors, it involved winning football games, and trying to make the playoffs, and make the Super Bowl. And, unfortunately in my career, we did not do that.

Mr. Sayers. What was your most memorable moment in football? Was it a long run or a touchdown? Can you pin it down to one moment? You have so many accolades, what is your most cherished? Staff Sergeant Israel Hill, United States Army, Europe
GS:
On the playing field, as I said, I only played 68 ball games and I had a lot of outstanding moments on the field. But, again, it's not about that. And I just think that being elected to the Professional Football Hall of Fame was the crowning moment of my career because most people who are in the Hall of Fame, their careers averaged about 10-12 years and mine was 68 ball games. And, to be inducted with these great athletes in the Hall of Fame is something I'll never forget.

Gale, Which modern day running back reminds you of yourself in your playing prime?
GS: Well, he's not playing anymore but Barry Sanders was the one that I felt ran like me. He used the whole field to run with the football and I did the same thing.

Was Dick Butkus as bad on the field as they say? - Steve Adorni
GS: Dick was a tremendous football player. When you say "bad," was he a dirty football player? No, he was not. He hit you where it hurt and he hit you in your heart. He was just a tremendous athlete. I never saw him intentionally twist somebody's leg or arm or whatever it may be. He was a tremendous football player and he had a great sense for the ball.

Was Brian Piccolo as zany as they portray him to be on the TV movie, Brian's Song?
GS: No question. The player always had a joke and you knew when you were tired, he'd come up with something. (He was) just a tremendous individual, and a good football player. He kept you laughing. 

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