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Gale Sayers' Greatness Transcended Football

Gale Sayers' Greatness Transcended Football

09/23/2020
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By: Jim Trotter, NFL.com Columnist and Pro Football Hall of Fame Selector

It's never easy waking to news that someone special has died, yet I found myself smiling amid the sadness after learning that Gale Sayers had passed away this morning at age 77.

Sayers, the Hall of Fame running back whose spectacular career with the Chicago Bears was cut short by injury, is one of the primary reasons I love football. He showed me how the game could transcend sport.

I was 8 years old and didn't follow football that closely in 1971 when I sat on the floor to watch "Brian's Song" on a grainy black-and-white TV in the living room of our Northern California home. The movie depicted the relationship between Sayers and Brian Piccolo, men who had every right to hate each other yet built a relationship that grew in love.

They were the same age, on the same team, playing the same position, with the same desire to be the featured ball carrier for their iconic franchise. But they were also very different in that Sayers was Black and Piccolo white, at a time when the civil rights movement was in the middle rounds of its heavyweight fight with the government, and the NFL -- less than a decade removed from its final team integrating -- was still searching for racial harmony.

You can read Trotter’s full story here.

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