We had so much fun doing our Countdown to Kickoff series last season that we decided to do it again. In case you’re new to the series, we’ll do a roster preview as we count down the days until the Chicago Bears September 7th season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
Legendary Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers is considered by many to be one of the greatest players in NFL history. But had it not been for two devastating knee injuries, Sayers could have easily etched his name among the top two or three players of all time.
Sayers’ storied professional career began back in 1965, when the Bears drafted him with their first round pick out of the University of Kansas. The 6-0, 198-pound running back went on to set the NFL rookie record for touchdowns in a season with 22, while also averaging an astonishing 5.2 yards per carry and 17.5 per reception. He was the unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year.
Following his enormous success as a rookie, Sayers led the league in rushing in his second season and was named to his first of three Pro Bowl teams. He quickly established himself as one of the best running backs in the league as well as the most dangerous return man the league had ever seen. The 1968 season, however, changed his career drastically. It was during that season that Sayers tore several ligaments in his right knee and was forced into a lengthy rehab stint.
Sayers followed up his knee injury by leading the league in rushing yet again in 1969, only to succumb to second knee injury — this time to his left knee — during the 1970 season. He attempted to come back to the league on two separate occasions, but failed to do so. Sayers’ historic career was cut short early, but his legacy remained intact, as proven by his 1977 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Today, Sayers remains a big part of the Chicago community with his philanthropic work and is the chairman of Sayers 40 Inc. in Vernon Hills.
Be on the lookout for our Countdown to Kickoff series as we continue to work our way to the season opener on September 7th. We’re 40 days from kickoff. Are you ready???