Thursday, October 8, 2009

Close to consensus

Sayers widely respected as KU’s greatest of all-time

Former Kansas University running back Gale Sayers turns it upfield in this photo against Missouri at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence. Many of today’s Jayhawks respect Sayers as the greatest player to ever put on a KU uniform.

Former Kansas University running back Gale Sayers turns it upfield in this photo against Missouri at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence. Many of today’s Jayhawks respect Sayers as the greatest player to ever put on a KU uniform.



Journal-World File Photo

Former Kansas University running back Gale Sayers has earned the respect of many of the recent Jayhawks as the best ever.

The Comet file

• Sayers KU stats: 3 seasons, 412 carries, 2,675 yards, 6.5 yards-per-carry, 19 touchdowns

• Sayers’ NFL stats: 7 seasons with Bears (68 games), 991 carries, 4,956 yards, 5.0 ypc, 39 TDs

• One of 12 RBs at KU to rush for 1,000+ yards in a season (1,125 in 1962)

• Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977

When the news hit last month that former Kansas University running back Gale Sayers was coming back to Lawrence to become the athletics department’s Director of Fundraising for Special Projects, it didn’t take long for his return to the program to make an impression with the members of the 2009 team.

Whether they had heard of him before arriving in Lawrence or not — and most were honest when answering that question — it didn’t take long for this year’s Jayhawks to learn about the man widely regarded as the greatest KU football player of all-time.

“As soon as I signed my letter of intent, I had people asking me if I knew who Gale Sayers was,” said freshman receiver Bradley McDougald, who hails from Dublin, Ohio. “When we were in two-a-days, they showed a lot of film on him and showed a lot of history of KU and all the different things that the different players did to make KU the school it is today. I didn’t know too much about him. I knew he was a great player and knew he did a lot of great things in the NFL, but I didn’t know too much about him at KU.”

Thanks to the highlight reel, that changed quickly as McDougald saw enough footage of Sayers’ 412 carries, 2,675 yards, 6.5 yards-per-carry and 19 touchdowns over three seasons at KU to understand why the man they called the Kansas Comet earned such praise.

“After seeing all the clips and hearing all of the different things he did and records he broke, I’d have to say the best player in KU history is Gale Sayers, hands down,” McDougald said.

The results of a recent, informal poll of about a dozen current Jayhawks, illustrated that McDougald’s thoughts were shared by most of his teammates, although not all for the same reasons.

“Gale Sayers,” senior safety Darrell Stuckey when asked his opinion. “He was relentless when he played here, his resilience and his passion for the game. And he had a great impact on this campus as a whole. Not only is his name on the stadium but he has his own computer lab and had a great influence academically, as well.”

Added junior defensive back Chris Harris: “Gale Sayers. He’s big-time. He’s a Hall of Famer.”

During the poll two separate questions were asked. The first, ‘Who is the best-known KU football player of all-time,’ was followed by the similar-but-different, ‘Who is the best KU football player of all-time?’ For most who answered, the name was the same: Sayers. But a few guys, like senior quarterback Todd Reesing, brought a twist to the table.

“Best-known, it’s hard to pass up Gale Sayers or John Hadl, two guys we’re lucky enough to have working with us,” said Reesing referring to Sayers and Hadl, now an associate athletic director at KU. “As for the best, it’s gotta be Gale or John, too. They both had such amazing careers both in college and in the NFL. Those two guys are definitely at the top of the class. I don’t know if I want to pick a clear favorite right now. I don’t want to get on anybody’s bad side.”

While most favored the old school answers, one member of this year’s team, freshman running back Toben Opurum, tossed out a more modern name. Although he first said Sayers — adding, “He was here the other day and everyone knew who he was as soon as he walked in. He seems like a great person and I hope to get to meet him some day.” — Opurum elaborated on his answer by saying, when it’s all said and done, KU’s senior quarterback could be mentioned in the conversation.

“If not Gale Sayers, I think Todd (Reesing) could go down leaving this place as one of the most talented guys to ever play here,” Opurum said.

Reesing has racked up some serious statistics to back Opurum’s claim.

In just three years as a starter, Reesing owns every major KU passing record — TD passes (career and season), passing yards (career and season), pass attempts (career and season), completions (career and season) and career completion percentage — and has led the Jayhawks to 24 wins against just six losses since Reesing led KU to a comeback win against Colorado late in the 2006 season.

Although he appreciated the nod from KU’s leading rusher, Reesing wasn’t so sure Opurum was thinking clearly when he answered the question.

“The fact that I was even mentioned in the same sentence with those guys is pretty astonishing,” Reesing said. “But I don’t think I’ve earned the right to be mentioned with guys like Gale Sayers and John Hadl at this point. They did some pretty unbelievable things. We’ll leave that topic for another day.”


rasta_meta 10 years, 8 months ago

Nolan Cromwell and Bobby Douglas deserve some mention here as well. I am amazed at how some of our great are not really mentioned as much as they should be.

Reesing will be consider one of the greats when he is done playing, but now is not the time. I have great respect for him saying that.

Steve Brown 10 years, 8 months ago

Defense: Willie Pless seems he was in on every tackle.

Offense: John Riggins, Hadl,

John Zook, Larned, top ten honorable mention ...

the best all time Mr. Gale Sayers...

100 10 years, 8 months ago

Not only was Gale one of the best to play at KU, statistically (albeit a short career due to injury) Gale was the best running back in the history of the NFL.

If stats are how it is measured, it's not even a close contest.

It's Gale Sayers.

(plus I've never seen anyone find a seam & accelerate like him -- no defensive back in the league had a prayer -- very smooth & deceptive, the best ever)

Benjamin Clay Jones 10 years, 8 months ago

Your headline says "Close to consensus." A consensus is defined as "general agreement or accord." It does not imply unanimity. Sounds to me as if the respondents to your informal poll were not merely "close" to consensus; they reached consensus, if most of them named Sayers.

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 8 months ago

100 is right. i don't know about the best running back in the history of the NFL, but he's right in this sense......Gale Sayers, when he was actually running with the ball, was the best EVER.

now that sounds weird, but purely running with the ball, (past the line of scrimmage, or on kickoffs and punts), there wasn't anybody that could accelerate on a cut, or make guys miss, or simply have a sense where defenders were coming from, and then make a cut the other way....he was truly amazing. and when he was past you, he's gone.

i mean, he didn't even carry the ball at KU. if he would have had a normal load of carries...he would have had 4500 yards easy. what he get the ball, 10 times a game?

sevenyearhawk 10 years, 8 months ago

Sayers and Chamberlain ... Kansas' "twin towers"

I suppose Woodard belongs in that conversation as well.

Hadl, Cromwell, Evans, Stubblefield, G. Brown, Briscoe, Meier, Reesing;

Born, Lovellette, White, Manning, Pierce, Chalmers, Collins, Aldrich;

Aycock, Dixon and McCray ...

All greats of their sport - but Sayers, Chamberlain and Woodard are THE names that come to mind when you mention their respective programs at Kansas.

number1jayhawker 10 years, 8 months ago

MAXHAWK, I remember like it was yesterday, watching Cromwell hurdle the highbar in the Superstars competition. He was the first to do that and won the event easily.

Tony Bandle 10 years, 8 months ago

Hey..what about record breaking miler Jim Ryan and four time Olympic champion, Al Oerter..let's think out of the box a little bit, huh!!??

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 8 months ago

when i was in high school in western KS, Nolan Cromwell still had the record at a freshman track meet in my hometown for the long that record at the time was 15 years old.

Nolan had the record for rushing yards in a game for a QB in NCAA div. 1 for like 25 plus years...and he only played half the game!

trader 10 years, 8 months ago

Yep, there can be quite a case for who is the best of the best KU football player of all time. Most all of the names have been mentioned above.

I believe it is best to judge them by what they did when at KU as a student rather than what they went on and did in the professional ranks. Also, the "older" players did not have access to the great trainers and weight rooms and equipment that is available today.

As for the best football athlete when at Kansas my vote goes to Nolan Cromwell. Next, Gale.

Stephen Koontz 10 years, 8 months ago

For the last three years I've been watching the greatest Kansas Football player that I have ever seen. #5 Todd Reesing.

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 8 months ago

Sayers averaged 5 yards a carry in the NFL....6.5 yards a carry at KU.

he averaged 30 yards a kickoff return in the pros.

for 1400 plus carries in college and the pros, he avged 5.4. he had a 99 yard run vs. Nebraska.

he averaged from scrimmage 7.12 total offensive yds per play in 1962...which is still a KU record.

like i said above, Gale is probably the best runner with the football...of all time.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.