Athlete–No one ever looked better on the gridiron wearing the purple and white football uniform of the Omaha Central Eagles than this backfield dancer who graduated in 1961. Wherever he played, spectators couldn’t forget his incredible ability to “shift gears” and leave all behind when he made his move for a touchdown. He was all-state twice in football, the state’s leading scorer (Class A) twice. He lead Central in 1960 to an unbeaten year during which the team was touted as state champion. Still a legend in track & field Nebraska annals. Gale Sayers jumped an astounding 24 feet 10 inches in the long jump in 1961, the longest jump in the nation that year by a high school athlete and the Nebraska state record for nearly four decades. An All-American college halfback at the University of Kansas, he is also most remembered as one of the best players in professional football, during a career cut shot by injuries for the Chicago Bears.
In football, Sayers led the state in scoring both his junior and senior seasons, scoring 127 points as a senior. Although his school’s statistics are almost non-existent, newspaper research revealed that he had several games of over 100 yards rushing (no total season rushing totals could be found). In addition to his offensive prowess, newspaper accounts report that during his senior year, he scored on a pass interception return of 53 yards and fumble recovery return for 29 yards.
Sayers was selected to the Scholastic Coach All-America High School Track Team, having had the lead performance in the broad (long) jump in 1961 across the nation.
He still holds the Bears record for the number of touchdowns scored in a single season (22) set his first year in the NFL. Sayers also still holds the Bears record for the most touchdowns and points scored in a single game. He scored six touchdowns for 36 points in a 1965 game against San Francisco. During his career, Sayers had nearly 9,500 combined net yards, almost 5,000 yards rushing and scored 336 points. He also was the NFL’s lifetime kickoff return leader.Sayers was named the Pro Bowl’s Player of the Game in 1967, 1968 and 1970, and was named to the 75th Anniversary All Time NFL Team. He was also named to the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame in 1980, the Blacks Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and the NFL All-Time Millennium Team. In 1977, he was the youngest player ever inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
The Pro Football Writers of America once named Sayers the NFL’s most courageous player to acknowledge his dedicated comeback from career-threatening knee surgery.
After completing his professional football career, Sayers returned to Kansas University and earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education while also handling duties of assistant athletic director. He then accepted the assignment as assistant director of the Williams Education Fund for three years and earned his master’s degree in educational administration. From 1976 through 1981, he was athletic director at Southern Illinois University.
Following a successful career at SIU, Sayers moved back to Chicago and launched a sports marketing and public relations firm, Sayers and Sayers Enterprises.
In 1984, Sayers and his wife, Ardythe, started a computer reseller firm. Today, the Sayers Group is a national technology solutions provider with locations across the United States.
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