Friday, September 4, 2009

Hadl, Sayers have come a long way


They can wheel and deal in the best of social circles with style and grace and solid articulation. That doesn’t hurt a bit in their efforts to raise money for the Kansas athletic program.

But if you’d tried to tell me back around 1955-60 that John Hadl and Gale Sayers would ever be the poised and polished public figures they have become, I’d have given you directions to the funny farm. Time was when neither one could look you in the eye and speak up. Lots of mumbling. They’ve come a long way, baby.

Nanny Duver was the legendary Central Junior High football coach who early in my career here said, “I think I’ve got somethin’ real special out here. He can do a lot of things real good.”

Nanny was referring to Hadl, a shy but talented junior high footballer who could, and would, run, throw, kick, block and tackle and even sell programs if you asked him to. Nanny had sent a lot of good ones to Lawrence High and would send a lot more. Yet he figured this kid had a peculiar sort of excellence because along with everything else, “he’ll figure out some way to beat you.”

John didn’t have a lot to say and didn’t say it very plainly when you pressed him. Then he’d step onto the football field, the basketball court, the baseball diamond and such and speak volumes in glowing fashion.

By the time he graduated from LHS in 1958, Hadl had begun to emerge as a communicator, and with all his accomplishments in football and administration, he has become a nifty loot-gatherer who’s a fixture on the KU staff.

Now Gallopin’ Gale is coming to help Hadl and the Lew Perkins conglomerate raise millions of more dollars, a lot of which will aid other realms of the university, beyond sports.

Jack Mitchell somehow recruited Sayers for KU (Nebraska was livid) even though his weak Omaha high school grades didn’t allow a scholarship. He never had his hand out and went to bed hungry now and then, but he did well enough academically to set the stage for what he considers his four greatest achievements.

As a freshman here, Sayers, like Hadl, was withdrawn, didn’t speak very clearly, seldom looked right at you. But he was driven. “I know the people up north were saying I was too dumb and timid to make it in school or on the field,” Gale told me one time. “Said they’d grease me through school, slip me money under the table and just hope I could play.” His four milestones of pride:

1—Earning a KU bachelor’s degree; 2—Earning a master’s degree here; 3—Proving he was tough enough in college and earning All-America; 4—Showing he had the guts and talent to excel in the NFL (only 58 games due to injury; chosen in the all-time backfield).

Smart enough, good enough, ever-improving as a social animal who could speak out on a personal or podium level.

His message to kids (same for Hadl): “Prepare to play well and prepare for when you have to quit. You get no education, shame on you!”

If you get a chance, watch the movie “Brian’s Song” with Billy Dee Williams and James Caan (as Brian Piccolo). It’s a great capsule of how far that almost-reclusive kid from Omaha has come, and it’s accurate.

Now the mumbling Hadl and Sayers are confidently prowling, heads high, for big bucks for their beloved KU. Considering their modest beginnings, KU couldn’t find a better pair of advertisements heralding the way it can develop kids.


gardenjay 10 years, 8 months ago

The best part of this article is Sayer's message concerning education. Talk about a good fit for KU - we are lucky to have brought back such thoughtful people, they obviously came from KU. Go KU!!

FlaHawk 10 years, 8 months ago

Did Hadl and Sayers ever play on the same team? The article talks about 55-60 and you had 3 years elgible at the time, but I don't remember them play on the same field at the same time?

Robert Brock 10 years, 8 months ago

Hadl played in 1959, '60, and '61. Sayers played in 1962, '63, and '64.

63Jayhawk 10 years, 8 months ago

Brock, I believe Sayers was actually a freshman in 1962. Freshmen played separate games then. His varsity games were '63, '64, and '65. I enjoyed watching all of Hadl's home games at KU and Sayers freshman ans sophomore years. Great players!

67Hawk 10 years, 8 months ago

I was sitting in the endzone cheap seats when John Hadl took his first snap for KU against TCU! He ran a quarterback sneak off right guard 52 yards for a touchdown! Not a bad start! And I'll always remember Gale taking the opening kickoff back for a touchdown when KU upset OU in 64 or 65. (I remember the play better than the year) KU scored on Sayers' first play and then OU dominated the game...until the last play of the game when QB Bobby Skahan (hope that's accurate) scored on about a 40 yard run. Then Coach Mitchell called a double reverse for the 2 point conversion (Mike Johnson) and a KU 15-14 win! Trust me...40 years from now you guys will remember the Reesing to Meier touchdown vs. Missouri last year like it was yesterday! Looking forward to even more great memories from this year's team! Go Hawks!

trueblue68 10 years, 8 months ago

FYI, Sayers was a Freshman in 1961 & played varsity in 1962, 63, & 64.

Sayers opening kickoff TD against OU was in 1964 with the come from behind win 15-14 double reverse 2 point conversion by Mike Johnson with no time left.

Sayers was the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1965.

hawkva 10 years, 8 months ago

Please help me remember that Oklahoma game in the fall of 64. In my admittedly old memory (and I was there to see it from start to finish), it seems like Gayle scored on the first play from scrimmage, not on the opening kickoff.

At the end of the game, the crowd was dazed but happy. We won on a "walk off" two point conversion and the crowd just stood around in happy disbelief--like there somehow had to be more game yet to play.

hawkva (Virginia Jayhawker)

pbowman2 10 years, 8 months ago

I wonder what Mayer would have said in his column if he wrote it after seeing the halftime show at the game on Saturday. I felt sorry for Sayers. He is a wonderful person and the best runner ever to play for KU. But there he was being used as a shill for the fatcats who are now controlling the athletics programs at KU. Gale isn't public speaker but that didn't matter to Perkins. Anything to promote another big dollar program; something that will lead to more money for him. Anyone who thinks Perkins is for anybody besides Lew should observe that despite his making millions from his position as AD he still wanted another $18,000 from an entity with which KU does business.

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