Sayers received more laurels for a lifetime's labor than most in seven seasons (despite playing only 68 games due to two severe knee injuries). In 1970, a devastating left knee injury basically terminated his career. After only two games in 1971, he was done at the age of 28.
However, Sayers did play in one more game - at the age of 29. On December 20, 1971, the San Diego Chargers played host to the Denver Broncos with both teams locked into place in the first round of the playoffs. The winner would go on to face the Oakland Raiders in the second round. With less than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the score tied 17-17, then-San Diego Charger head coach John Lynch decided to go for it on 4th down and 1 near their own 35-yard line. The play call was designed for Sayers, but he didn't make the trip to San Diego because of his injury. Instead, running back Larry Hillman picked up the ball and ran for a touchdown to win the game for the Chargers.
In conclusion, Sayers ended his career on an emotional high note by leading his team to the playoffs. He will be remembered as one of the best all-around players in NFL history.
He appeared in only 68 games. Sayers was in the midst of perhaps his greatest season in 1968 when he suffered a devastating knee injury that changed the path of his career. Sayers opted to retire before the start of the 1972 season after an ankle injury limited him to only two appearances in 1971. He ended his career with 3,446 yards from scrimmage and 26 touchdowns.
After graduating from high school in 1964, Sayers went to Kansas State University. There he played as a running back for the Wildcats until he was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 1st round (10th overall) of the 1967 NFL Draft. Sayers joined an already strong backfield that included Mike Giddings and George Blanda. In his first season, he led the league in kickoff returns with a 30-yard average.
In 1969, Sayers was again voted the league's top return man. This time he returned 99 kicks for 2,616 yards (an average of 23.1 yards per return). He also had 547 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The following year, he was selected for the 1970s All-Decade Team by the NFL Network. Sayers retired after the 1973 season, having played in 68 games over six seasons with the Bears. He had returned 100 kicks during that period.
Sayers' retirement was due to health issues. He had surgery on both knees during his time in Chicago and also had ankle surgery after the 1971 season.
His achievements include being the first player to win the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award as well as its Comeback Player of the Year award (he returned from retirement to play eight games in 1965), and also winning the NFL Man of the Year award.
He has been called "the greatest all-around football player of his time." During his career, Sayers participated in three NFL Championships games, won two Super Bowls with the Kansas City Chiefs, and was selected to eleven Pro Bowls. He finished his career with 8,312 yards from scrimmage and 56 touchdowns.
After his retirement, Sayers had a successful advertising business venture before returning to the league as an assistant coach for the Chicago Bears in 1973. He died at age 44 after suffering a heart attack while lifting weights at home.
In conclusion, Gale Sayers suffered from two serious knee injuries during his career that ended prematurely at age 29. But he still holds many NFL records to this day including being the only player to score a touchdown in his first four seasons.