Gale Sayers’s Balletic Runs Obscure Football’s Brutal Endings

It is perhaps no small irony that in 1965, the year that the Chicago Bears chose running back Gale Sayers fourth over all in the draft, George Halas, the team’s longtime owner, picked linebacker Dick Butkus one spot ahead of him. The tandem defined the team and the league for most of a decade. Both players ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But where Sayers was graceful, Butkus was brutal. Sayers eluded tacklers, Butkus slammed into ball carriers and threw them to the ground with glee. Sayers spent his years avoiding collisions. Butkus, the most fearsome player of his time, seemed to live for them.

Both of them also had their careers cut short by knee injuries, a reminder that for all the grace football players can display, the game at its core is a bone-crunching, head-knocking, jaw-breaking showdown.

Sayers, who died early Wednesday at 77 from complications of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, is rightly remembered for his athletic artistry that some compared to dancing ballet. Footage of his games from the 1960s show him effortlessly slicing left and right, leaping like a hurdler and crisscrossing the field in search of slivers of space between defenders on his way to the end zone.

Sahred From Source link Sports

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