Gale Sayers retires from Chicago Bears and legacy after football
After Piccolo's untimely death, Sayers remained with the Bears for two more seasons, but injuries shortened both campaigns to just two games. After sustaining significant knee injuries on both of his knees over just four seasons, Sayers retired from the NFL following the 1971 season. Sayers retired after just seven seasons as a Bear where he recorded over 6,200 total yards, nearly 5,000 total rushing yards, 48 total touchdowns, four Pro Bowl selections, and five First-Team All-Pro nods.
Today, Sayers is ranked fifth in both rushing yards and touchdowns in Chicago Bears history. Amongst players with over 400 carries, Sayers' 5.0 average rush yards per attempt is ranked best in team history, with his yards per game mark of nearly 73 ranking as the third best in franchise history.
Sayers received several awards and accolades following his retirement, including inductions into both the College Football and Professional Football Hall of Fame. His jersey number was retired by both the Chicago Bears (40) and the University of Kansas (48). Recognized widely as one of the best running backs in league history, Sayers was named to the NFL's 50th, 75th, and 100th Anniversary teams.
Following his retirement from the NFL as a player, Sayers remained close to the game of football, serving as athletic director for both Southern Illinois and Tennessee State. Outside of working within sports administration, Sayers notably was part of a lawsuit against the NFL and its helmet manufacturers, with former players arguing that the league and equipment aided in the development of brain disease. Unfortunately, one of these illnesses affected Sayers greatly, who suffered from dementia until his recent death in 2020. Sayers passed at the age of 77.
Throughout his career, Sayers was a dominant running back who won thanks to his speed and agility. As one of the shiftiest players of his time, Sayers was an unfair matchup in his time and was able to impact the offensive side of the ball in a number of ways. Unfortunately, Sayers, and perhaps Piccolo as well, joins a list of NFL greats who had their careers shortened for several reasons. However, despite being able to play for just seven seasons, Sayers' mark on the game of football will not soon be forgotten, and he served extremely impressively in a long lineage of great Chicago Bears running backs.