The Bears will honor the late Gale Sayers at Sunday's regular-season finale against the Packers with a stenciled circle on the field that features his last name and No. 40 jersey number.
The Hall of Fame running back, who spent his entire NFL career with the Bears from 1965-72, passed away Sept. 23 at the age of 77.
Selected by the Bears with the fourth pick in the 1965 draft out of Kansas, Sayers made an immediate impact as a rookie. The "Kansas Comet" set an NFL record with 22 touchdowns and tied another mark by scoring six TDs in a remarkable performance in muddy conditions at Wrigley Field in a win over the 49ers. Sayers was named NFL rookie of the year, edging teammate Dick Butkus.
In his second season in 1966, Sayers led the NFL in rushing with 1,231 yards and set a league record with 2,440 all-purpose yards. He topped the Bears in receiving with 34 catches for 447 yards, averaged 31.2 yards on 23 kickoff returns and scored 12 total touchdowns—eight rushing, two receiving and two on kickoff returns.
Sayers set a Bears rushing record with 205 yards on 24 carries in a win over the Packers on Nov. 3, 1968. But a week later he tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee against the 49ers and was lost for the season. He was leading the NFL in rushing at the time with 856 yards.
Sayers rebounded from the injury to lead the NFL in rushing in 1969 with 1,032 yards. But he injured his left knee in a 1970 preseason game and was limited to two regular-season contests because of it. Eased back into the lineup in 1971, he hurt his ankle and played in only two games. Sayers retired in the summer of 1972.
Sayers ultimately set 23 Bears records and seven NFL marks. He was a five-time first-team All-Pro selection who was voted to four Pro Bowls. His 22 touchdowns in 1965 remain a rookie record, and he's still the top kickoff returner in NFL history with a 30.6-yard average.
Sayers was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1960s and was selected to NFL 50th, 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams. His No. 40 jersey was retired by the Bears in 1994 and he was chosen as the fifth best player in Bears history in 2019 by writers Don Pierson and Dan Pompei in the Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook that features a list of the top 100 players in the team history.
In 1977, at the age of 34, Sayers became the youngest man ever inducted into the Hall of Fame. His effective playing time of 68 games is also the shortest of any Hall of Famer.
To honor Gale Sayers, ChicagoBears.com takes a look back at some of our favorite moments with The Kansas Comet through the years.