What Was Gale Sayers Cause of Death? How Did He Become a Football Star?

Gale Sayers, one of the greatest running backs in NFL history and a Hall of Famer, passed away on September 23, 2020, at the age of 77. He was widely regarded as an electrifying and elusive player who thrilled fans every time he touched the ball. He was also known for his friendship with teammate Brian Piccolo, which inspired the movie “Brian’s Song”.

Gale Sayers Cause of Death

Sayers suffered from dementia during the final years of his life, a condition his widow Ardythe attributed to his profession. “It wasn’t so much getting hit in the head,” she said of what a Mayo Clinic doctor confirmed to her in 2017. “It’s just the shaking of the brain when they took him down with the force they play the game in today. I think that’s what it is.” She also said that Sayers donated his brain to science to help future generations.

Sayers died on September 23, 2020, at his home in Wakarusa, Indiana. No official cause of death was provided by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which announced his passing. However, relatives of Sayers said that his health decline was due to a long battle with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease complications.

Sayers’ death prompted an outpouring of tributes from across the sports world and beyond. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called him “one of the finest men in NFL history and one of the game’s most exciting players”. Bears chairman George H. McCaskey said that Sayers “was someone who we all greatly admired”.

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka said that Sayers “was poetry in motion”. Former President Barack Obama tweeted that Sayers “was a great player who made every game exciting” and “a good man whose friendship I valued greatly”.

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental abilities that affects daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases. It is a progressive and irreversible brain disorder that destroys memory and thinking skills. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and the average life expectancy after diagnosis is about four to eight years.

People on Twitter are sharing their thoughts and feelings about the famous Bears football player, Gale Sayers, who has passed away:

Matt Forte posted a message on Twitter saying, “Rest in heaven to Mr. Sayers.”

Field Yates posted on Twitter: “Gale Sayers passed away. He was one of the most exciting and amazing players in NFL history.”:

Dan Pompei posted on Twitter that Gale Sayers’ bright light was never meant to shine for a long time. Instead, it was meant to shine very brightly, and it did just that:

James Palmer published a tweet that legendary Hall of Fame football player Gale Sayers has died at the age of 77:

Gale Sayers Football Career

Sayers was born in Wichita, Kansas, and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. He was a star athlete at the University of Kansas, where he earned the nickname “The Kansas Comet” for his speed and agility. He set a Big Eight Conference record with 4,020 all-purpose yards and was a two-time All-American.

He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1965 and immediately made an impact in the NFL. He led the league in rushing twice and scored a record 22 touchdowns in his rookie season. He was named Rookie of the Year and NFL Player of the Year in 1965. He was also a dangerous kick returner, scoring eight touchdowns on returns in his career.

Sayers was a five-time first-team All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowler. He was the youngest player ever inducted into the Hall of Fame at age 34 in 1977. His career was cut short by injuries to both knees, limiting him to only 68 games in seven seasons. He finished with 4,956 rushing yards, 39 rushing touchdowns, and a 5.0 yards per carry average.

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Gale Sayers Friendship With Brian Piccolo

Sayers’ legacy transcended his on-field achievements. He was also remembered for his friendship with fellow Bears running back Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer in 1970 at age 26. The two became roommates in 1967, breaking the racial barrier in the NFL at a time of social unrest. They supported each other through injuries and illnesses, forming a bond that touched many people.

Their story was told in Sayers’ autobiography “I Am Third” and adapted into the movie “Brian’s Song” in 1971. The film starred Billy Dee Williams as Sayers and James Caan as Piccolo and won several awards and critical acclaim. It is considered one of the most emotional sports movies ever made.

Gale Sayers’ Legacy and Impact

Gale Sayers’ legacy and impact on the game of football are immense and lasting. He is widely considered one of the most influential and innovative players in NFL history, who revolutionized the running back position with his versatility, creativity, and explosiveness. He could run, catch, block, and return kicks with equal skill and flair.

He holds several NFL records, including the most touchdowns in a rookie season (22), the most touchdowns in a single game (6), and the highest career kickoff return average (30.6 yards). He also inspired generations of fans and players with his courage, humility, and sportsmanship. One of the most memorable aspects of Sayers’ legacy is his friendship with his teammate Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer in 1970 at the age of 26.

Sayers and Piccolo were the first interracial roommates in the NFL, and they developed a close bond despite their different backgrounds and personalities. Sayers supported Piccolo during his illness and delivered a moving speech at an awards ceremony honoring Piccolo’s courage. Their story was immortalized in the 1971 film “Brian’s Song”, which is widely regarded as one of the best sports movies ever made.


Gale Sayers was a football legend who left an indelible mark on the game and the culture. He was a phenomenal athlete who dazzled fans with his amazing plays and a remarkable human being who touched lives with his kindness and grace. He died after a long battle with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but his memory and legacy will live on forever.


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