Arkush: Your Gale Sayers questions answered

  • FILE -- This is a 1970 file photo showing Chicago Bears football player Gale Sayers. Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, who made his mark as one of the NFL's best all-purpose running backs and was later celebrated for his enduring friendship with Chicago Bears teammate Brian Piccolo, has died. He was 77. Nicknamed "The Kansas Comet" and considered among the best open-field runners the game has ever seen, Sayers died Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    FILE -- This is a 1970 file photo showing Chicago Bears football player Gale Sayers. Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, who made his mark as one of the NFL's best all-purpose running backs and was later celebrated for his enduring friendship with Chicago Bears teammate Brian Piccolo, has died. He was 77. Nicknamed "The Kansas Comet" and considered among the best open-field runners the game has ever seen, Sayers died Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 9/28/2020 6:23 PM

You ask I answer ...

Gale Sayers was before my time. Walter Payton is the greatest football player I've seen. Barry Sanders was the best pure runner I've seen. I've heard Sayers and Sanders were similar. I would love a comparison. -- August Ecklund

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There have been dozens of great running backs in the NFL, there are 41 in Canton, but Sanders is the only one I'd put in the same class with Brown, Payton and Sayers.

For all their greatness Sayers and Sanders actually had little in common.

At 6-feet and 198 pounds Sayers was long and lean for a running back by today's NFL standards. He was a track star at Kansas and as the "Kansas Comet" he had outstanding speed although not the elite speed of today's top stars.

Gale was also one of the greatest return men of all time and his style was pure grace, in some respects ballet on the gridiron. In his prime was he rarely absorbed big hits because he was often untouched when he was in rhythm on the field.

At 5-8 and 203 pounds Sanders was undersized, had just average speed, caught the ball well but was nowhere near the threat to break one as Sayers was. Sanders had just 5 kickoff returns as a rookie and never returned a punt.

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While Sayers was a seam splitter and an outside, open field runner, Sanders was a between-the-tackles slasher and human bowling ball. He was easy to get your hands on but impossible to bring down.

What Sanders was the best ever at was he had the quickest feet I've ever seen. He would absolutely hold the NFL's all time rushing record had he simply chosen to but he hung 'em up early.

Best No. 40 story. -- Art Larson

It was Halloween night 1994, and the Bears were playing the Packers on "Monday Night Football."

It was pouring and it was the night the Bears retired Dick Butkus' and Sayers' numbers.

Dick was my broadcast partner along with Wayne Larrivee.

With no skyboxes to stay out of the weather Gale's choices were the Halas family booth right next to ours, the press box or our broadcast booth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Gale spent the first half with us and he and Dick tried to figure how to avoid going out in those awful conditions at halftime for the ceremony. During every break they swapped stories about their time as George Halas' Bears.

The old man retired as coach after the '67 season so they only played their first three seasons for him and spent more of their careers with Halas as GM and owner, and many of the stories involved trying to get money out of him.

It was one of the more special nights of my career.

If you could put Walter or Gale into Nagy's offense, who would you choose? -- Richard Gage

You want a back that's an excellent receiver as well and while Sayers was a greater threat to hit the home run after catching the ball, Walter was the more consistent pass catcher. At the end of the day I have to say Walter because he was better built for today's NFL than Gale was and more durable. But I'd take either in a heartbeat, and I'd take either over any back playing today.

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