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Monday, August 1, 2011

Coveting the Comet: Texas A&M RB Gray’s all-time favorite? KU’s Sayers

Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray laughs before answering a question on July 25 at Big 12 media days in Dallas. Gray revealed his favorite running back of all-time was former Kansas University great Gale Sayers, the Kansas Comet.

Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray laughs before answering a question on July 25 at Big 12 media days in Dallas. Gray revealed his favorite running back of all-time was former Kansas University great Gale Sayers, the Kansas Comet.

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AP File Photo

Bears running back Gale Sayers (40) carries the ball in this Nov. 10, 1970, file photo against San Francisco in Chicago. Current players still remember and idolize the former Kansas University standout, as evidenced by Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray.

For most young football players who grew up as fans of the game during the past couple of decades, there was no shortage of running backs for which they could root for and fall in love with.

Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson were just a few of the game’s all-time greats who played their pro ball in the 1990s and 2000s.

As much as he enjoyed watching all of those players, Texas A&M’s Cyrus Gray always had a different favorite. And it was a guy he never actually saw play.

Gray, a senior from DeSoto, Texas, said last week at the Big 12’s media days in Dallas that his favorite all-time running back was former Kansas University standout Gale Sayers.

“He’s a legend,” Gray said. “He’s one of the guys who started the home-run threat and breaking guys’ ankles. He’s inspirational to me and any other back that knows football.”

Gray said he first learned about Sayers’ short-but-stellar NFL career by watching highlights on television. Mesmerized by The Kansas Comet’s ability to rack up so many yards in such an effortless manner, Gray always envisioned himself turning into that kind of back.

Though some teammates have found it a little odd for Gray to idolize a guy who played in the 1960s, Gray’s high school teammate and current fellow Aggie, Tony Jerod-Eddie, said the connection never surprised him.

“Cyrus has always been a guy who, no matter what level it is, he knows all the running backs, so it doesn’t really surprise me at all to hear that he said Gale Sayers is a guy he wants to be like,” said Jerod-Eddie, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive lineman. “He’s really a student of the game, and he always researches the top running backs and knows all the history.”

Although Gray, 22, is majoring in agricultural leadership and development, he considers himself a history buff when it comes to football.

“I am,” he said. “When you get a chance to watch the NFL Network any time they’re showing great running backs or great players, you see Gale Sayers. He’s the guy that started a lot of things that not too many guys know about. He’s exciting to watch even now.”

Since his first flirtation with Sayers’ film, Gray has become one of the top college running backs in the country. Last season, in an emergency type of role, Gray rushed for 1,133 yards and 12 TDs in seven starts while helping lead the Aggies to a 9-3 season. After starting the year 3-3, A&M ripped off six straight wins before falling to LSU in the Cotton Bowl. During that stretch, Gray delivered seven straight 100-yard games.

“Certainly Cyrus finished the season on somewhat of a tear,” A&M coach Mike Sherman said. “And we want to see him pick up where he left off.”

Gray, who admits he knows Sayers more as a Chicago Bear than a Kansas Jayhawk, visited KU before signing with A&M. On his visit, he met Sayers briefly.

“He was a great guy, and you could definitely see that he might still have it,” Gray said. “It was great meeting him.”

So, after meeting his hero, how was it possible for Gray to turn down Kansas?

“I’m in a good spot, and it all came down to being closer to home so my parents could see me play more,” he said. “Ever since I’ve been at A&M, they’ve been at every game.”

Gray and the Aggies will open the season Sept. 4 against SMU. A&M will play host to the Jayhawks on Nov. 19, when Gray hopes to get one more chance to visit with Sayers.

“That would be amazing,” he said.

Comments

Funhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

Hemingway said every true story must end in death. That movie "Brian's Song," the 1971 original, was a real tear jerker.

ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 3 months ago

Dude!!! I was first but I had to google how to spell piccolo!!! Crap! No I have to check again because you threw me off...

nuleafjhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

while you're checking - google how to spell " now ".

ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 3 months ago

A young man passed away and you're worried about spelling! RIP Brian.

Funhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

Brian Piccolo "Notes" in Gale Sayers' blog. http://www.galesayerswebsite.com/blog-details.php?blog=54

Even the theme song to the movie was sad. Henry Mancini's version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w26pW2... Michael Legrand's version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eF9V1vZ_yeQ

Reminds me of two other 1971 movies where the protagonist told the story ending in death: "Love Story" and "Let's Scare Jessica to Death."

jhawklifer 3 years, 3 months ago

Hard to argue with Cyrus after watching that s**t. I didn't realize how big Sayers was; he's got that "man among boys quality" in spades. The stop-start and change of direction is totally on par with present day. Circa 1965, take a look at some NBA clips; Cousy still dribbling with one hand, Elgin pretty much with just a pullup, Wilt firing an obscene amount of FGAs...you can see the origins of great ball in those players, but Gale Sayers could absolutely have played in the NFL today with the skills I saw on that clip. Don't think we could say that about any NBA starts from the same period. Speaks to the fact that some form of the NFL was around more than twice as long as pro ball, too, giving football a leg up from an evolutionary standpoint, but WOW, Cyrus is totally on point when he says Sayers is fun to watch even now.

hawksince51 3 years, 3 months ago

Sayers was the most exciting football player ever to play at KU with number 2 a very distant second. It was unfortunate that Sayers played at a time when we were not a strong team-- following the Hadl-McClinton era and preceding Douglas-Riggins. Still, we won a lot of games thanks solely to his outstanding play, whether a kick-off or punt return or those breakaway runs from scrimmage. In the NFL, before his tragic injuries, he was able to show what a unique talent he was. But again, he was not surrounded by a very good team. Always good to see an article that reminds us of his greatness.

nuleafjhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

I've always felt that Gale Sayers was the greatest running back to ever lace 'em up. Period. He was just that special. The man made cuts that couldn't be made and was just so fluid. I get goosebumps every time I see a clip of him run. It's a real tragedy that his NFL career was cut short due to injury, so the rest of the country could have gotten to appreciate him as well.

hawken 3 years, 3 months ago

well said and I couldn't agree more. Sayers did things I've never seen any other running back do. If he hadn't been injured he would have rewritten the record books. Best ever.

Matt Tait 3 years, 3 months ago

Kansas did offer, but, after talking to him, it seems obvious that it would've been next to impossible to get Gray out of Texas.

He had offers from all over — Cal, Colorado, Florida and Notre Dame, to name a few — but went with the only Texas school that offered him.

Great guy. Really enjoyed talking to him and will definitely be rooting for him now and as he turns pro.

waywardJay 3 years, 3 months ago

Cyrus knows football if he's studying Gale Sayers....

Probably took one look at Mangino and Said, Naw, I think I'll take the bus.

KCHawk81 3 years, 3 months ago

I noticed today that kuathletics.com has the times for the first two games set at 6 pm. No surprise there. Anyone know when ESPN finalizes their fall schedule? We're probably a tough TV sell at this point, but I think it was around the end of July when they moved the k-state game last year. Just want to make sure before we start making weekend plans...

jartiv 3 years, 3 months ago

woa... of course as I read this, I turn on the TV and Brian's Song is on Versus.. well kind of. Sunflower guide says it is, but its actually poker.

Philip Bowman 3 years, 3 months ago

I saw Sayers play and he was every bit as good as is being said. He was so good that once KU scored with someone else running the ball because the other team was covering Sayers. In 1964 Sayers took the opening kickoff for a touchdown against OU in Lawrence. In the last of the 4th quarter, KU was down 14 to 7. The KU quarterback kept the ball when he couldn't find a receiver and ran a zig-zag pattern for 25 yards for a touchdown as the clock ran out and brought the score to 14-13. KU went for two. Sayers could have been tacked by the OU defense but didn't have the ball. The handoff was faked to Sayers and the other running back, Mike Johnson, took the ball on a double reverse and went in for the two-pointer untouched. 15-14!

PRICELESS!

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