Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers died Wednesday at the age of 77.
David Baker, president and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, issued a statement on Sayers' death:
"All those who love the game of football mourn the loss of one of the greatest to ever play this game with the passing of Chicago Bears legend Gale Sayers. He was the very essence of a team player -- quiet, unassuming and always ready to compliment a teammate for a key block. Gale was an extraordinary man who overcame a great deal of adversity during his NFL career and life.
"The 'Kansas Comet' burst onto the scene in the National Football League and captured the attention of all of America. Despite playing only 68 NFL games because of an injury-shortened career, Gale was a clear-cut -- and first-ballot -- Hall of Famer for his accomplishments on the field and for the man of character he was in life.
"The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Gale. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Ardie, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will fly at half-staff until he is laid to rest."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also issued a statement after word of Sayers' death, via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network:
Sayers spent his entire seven-year NFL career with the Chicago Bears from 1965 to 1971. He was named to the All-Pro first team in each of his first five seasons, won the NFL Rookie of the Year Award in 1965 and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection.
A knee injury suffered during the 1968 season limited Sayers to just nine games. He led the NFL in rushing yards (1,032) and was named Comeback Player of the Year in 1969, but knee problems plagued him for the subsequent two years before he was forced to retire during the preseason in 1972.
Despite playing just 68 games in his career, Sayers left a lasting impression on the league. The Kansas native was named to the All-Decade team for the 1960s and was included on the league's 50th, 75th and 100th anniversary teams.
Sayers' No. 40 jersey with the Bears and his No. 48 college jersey with the Kansas Jayhawks have been retired. His 4,956 rushing yards and 39 rushing touchdowns both rank fifth all-time in Bears history.