Former player Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears is introducted to the crowd before a game against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field on October 24, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this list, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in this countdown.
Today we finally crack the Top 10, and we ring in the occasion in a big way by going with the Kansas Comet, as Gale Sayers makes his appearance on our countdown.
Drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 1965 NFL Draft, Sayers’ career was derailed by knee injuries, but not before he became one of the greatest running backs in Chicago Bears history. During his seven seasons with the team, Sayers rushed for 4956 yards, scored 39 touchdowns, and added nine receiving touchdowns. He was a four-time Pro Bowl running back, and was named a first-team All-Pro five times in his career. He was ultimately elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977, and has also been named to the College Football Hall of Fame for his exploits with the Kansas Jayhawks.
Sayers burst onto the scene in his rookie season with the Bears in a big way, playing in 14 games and rushing for 867 yards. He set a career high for touchdowns that season with 20 combined scores (14 rushing, six receiving), and amassed 1374 yards from scrimmage, the second highest total of his career. The next season was even bigger for him, with a career high 1231 rushing yards and 10 more combined touchdowns, but it was that initial burst of frenetic energy and skill that ultimately defined his career with the Bears.
Sayers was also known for off-the-field reasons too. The movie “Brian’s Song,” which came out in 1971, profiled Sayers’ relationship with Brian Piccolo and was an immediate hit. Detailing Piccolo’s battle with cancer, the movie is still a heart-wrenching film even today, and countless Bears fans have been touched by it.
Currently, Sayers still is active with the University of Kansas’ fundraising efforts, and he also has worked in stock trading after his time with the Bears.
Sayers is unquestionably one of the greatest players to ever put on a Bears uniform, but we struggled with where to put him in this countdown. There was a temptation to go even higher because of how brightly his star shone before injuries derailed his career, but that brevity combined with how high of a draft pick he was settled him into the #10 spot on the countdown.