He was the Sandy Koufax of pro football.
A player so great during his relatively brief career that election to the Hall of Fame was almost a given. Three days before the death of the man who became one of pro football’s most electrifying talents, a rare photo of Gale Sayers during his college days was listed for auction.
The 8×10 image taken by a local photographer in Lawrence, KS, is believed to be the only dated photo from Sayers’ junior season ever to reach the hobby market.
Taken three years before his 1966 Philadelphia Gum rookie card, the photo shows Sayers in a posed run in front of the camera. It carries the photographer’s stamp on the back and a handwritten date of “12-2-63” which would have been after the Jayhawks concluded the 1963 season.
Sayers played well enough to earn the first of his two All-America selections in 1963, highlighted by an NCAA record 99-yard touchdown run against Nebraska.
He was drafted fourth overall by the Chicago Bears in 1965, the first of five straight seasons in which he’d be named All-Pro. Torn knee ligaments suffered late in the 1968 season robbed him of some of his skills and more injury trouble in the early 1970s spelled the end of his career.
“Football fans know well Gale’s many accomplishments on the field: a rare combination of speed and power as the game’s most electrifying runner, a dangerous kick returner, his comeback from a serious knee injury to lead the league in rushing, and becoming the youngest player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Bears chairman George McCaskey said in a statement. “People who weren’t even football fans came to know Gale through the TV movie ‘Brian’s Song,’ about his friendship with teammate Brian Piccolo. Fifty years later, the movie’s message that brotherhood and love needn’t be defined by skin color still resonates.”
The photo is one of several hundred in the RMY sale, with bidding set to continue through October 3.