Sayers: 'I probably could've had every record in the book'

Sayers: 'I probably could've had every record in the book'
January 22, 2014, 1:00 pm
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How did he do it?

It's a question Gale Sayers has been asked for almost 50 years.

How did he score six touchdowns in a single game?

Some point to his legs, others his eyes--the two on his face and the two in the back of his head.

But ask Gale about that day and he points straight up into the sky.

"[God] was on my side, and I knew it from the first play. I said give me the damn football and we're gonna make something happen," Sayers said in "Bears Classics: Gale Force" premiering Wednesday night at 9 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet. "It seemed like every time I got the football, I was gaining 15 yards, 30 yards. I felt like, 'I don't think you can stop me.'"

[RELATED: Bears Classics: Gale Sayers’ 6-TD game]

They didn’t.

The documentary looks back at December 12, 1965, when the Bears faced off against the San Francisco 49ers on a cold, rainy Sunday at Wrigley Field. The grass turned to mud and Sayers turned into a superhero with a cape.

"Let me tell you about Gale, okay?" said his former Bears teammate Ed O'Bradovich. "He could have went out barefooted, with golf spikes, with hiking boots, it wouldn't have made a difference. You weren't gonna get him."

It started with an innocent swing pass in the first quarter. Sayers took the football and ran 80 yards for a touchdown. Later in the quarter, tight end Mike Ditka caught a 29-yard touchdown pass with an acrobatic grab to make it 13-0 Bears.

"The irony of this whole game is that was the greatest catch I made in my life," Ditka said in the documentary. "One-handed, diving, sliding into the end zone. Nobody remembers it because he scored 6 touchdowns, but no, it's the truth."

[ALSO: Gale Sayers on Ditka -- Loved everything about what he did]

Sayers added touchdown runs of 21, 7, 50, and 1 in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, but he was saving his very best for last.

Midway through the 4th quarter, San Francisco mistakenly chose to punt the ball to Sayers on 4th down. The Bears rookie caught the ball at the 15-yard line and had a direct flight to the end zone.

"When I got the football, I went to my right and I knew that, ‘Hey, I see one man over here, I see another person over here. They’re in trouble.’"

Sayers raced 85 yards for his 6th touchdown of the game, an NFL record. And he only touched the ball 16 times.

"I just wonder how many Sayers would have scored if we hadn't set our defense to stop him," said 49ers assistant coach Y.A. Tittle after the game.

Sayers went on to score a league record 22 touchdowns and won the 1965 Rookie of the Year.

The tragedy was that he would only play three more full seasons. Severe knee injuries in 1968 and 1970 basically ended his career at the age of 28, leaving us all to wonder what might have been.

[MORE: Bears Classics -- Gale Force to debut on at 9:00 p.m. exclusively on CSN]

That thought has been in the back of Sayers’ mind for the last 44 years. Dig a little into his psyche and you’ll find a well of emotion just waiting to pour out, as it did during our interview.

“If I could've played another three years, I probably could've had every record in the book. As far as a running back, if I could've played another three or four years.”

Sayers starts to tremble. His right hand shakes, his lips quiver.

“Because hey, God gave me a gift. He gave me a gift! To go out there and play!”

He pauses and like the knee that abruptly gave out four decades ago, Sayers couldn’t go on anymore.

“That’s enough,” he said politely.

The interview was over, but Gale’s six touchdown game and the trail he blazed on the football field will live on forever.