In a packed grand ballroom at The Westin uptown on Wednesday, Chicago Bears and Kansas University Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers spoke to about 600 people at a luncheon sponsored by The Charlotte Touchdown Club and reminisced about his playing days, today's players, the movie "Brian's Song" and the NFL Players Association among other things.
On what made him great: It takes a gift from God. No one taught me how to run the football. I had it when I was 8 years old.
Best player he ever played against: Dick Butkus. You had not lived until you had been hit by Dick Butkus. I was hit as hard in practice by him as I had been hit by anyone in a game. A great football player. Great friend.
The difference between today's players and when he played: We had a Pro Bowl. When I played the game, I considered that my Super Bowl. I was in four Pro Bowls and was MVP three times. Today, they go to Hawaii. We didn't go to Hawaii, we went to Los Angeles. It's a shame today's players, making the kind of money they make, won't go to the Pro Bowl. It's a fan's game.
On the movie "Brian's Song" and Brian Piccolo: People said he wasn't big enough or fast enough. A fine young man. When they put the movie together, they showed it to the Bears, the players' wives. People ask, did we cry? There wasn't a dry eye in the house. He was family. He was like a brother. (Life) is not promised to you.
On his conversation with a current running back who didn't know of Jim Brown: I asked him, do you know who Jim Brown was? "No, I don't." Do you know who Johnny Unitas was? "No, I don't." That's a crying shame you don't know the history of the game. These players made the game what it is so you could make the money you are making. You shouldn't even be playing the game if you don't know the history.
On the Players Association and its treatment of retired players: Mike Ditka and I went to the Senate to talk about players from yesteryear who are in trouble. I think they (the government) are on our side. They told Gene Upshaw and Roger Goodell if you don't fix it, we will, and you don't want us messing in your business. I think in about 60-90 days, we are going to have some help in this area. If they do, it will be great. There are a lot of players hurting.
On celebrations after touchdowns: I don't like it. Writing on a football, taking a gun out of a sock. It's so stupid. If it's that important, why don't they give points for dancing in the end zone or making a tackle?