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Archive for 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.

August 1, 2011

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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.

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

jazzttt 2 years, 8 months ago

I was at that game, I believe it was in 1964, my second year at KU. Sayers scored on the first and last plays of the game, then Mike Johnson scored on a trick two-point conversion with time expired to win the game, 15-14. Except for KU's opening and closing plays, OU dominated the majority of regulation play. I'll never forget the hysteria following that miracle win. Sayers played from 1962 thru 1964, his 3-year eligibility was expired by 1965. Sadly, he never got to a bowl game with KU. Ty Travis, KU '67, Pine Bluff, AR

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Joe Hyde 2 years, 8 months ago

If a film clip of it can still be found, I wish the J-W could post a video of Sayers' touchdown in KU's home win against Oklahoma in (I think) 1965. This is the game KU won when quarterback Bobby Skahan threw a last-second touchdown pass on a trick play involving a long cross-field lateral before the downfield pass.

Sayers -- I think on the game's opening kickoff -- received the kickoff, broke through the first wave of defenders and had just one man to beat. Suddenly in the open field, Sayers ran straight at this last defender then executed a high-step triple-move juke fake that practically pulled that poor Oklahoma kid's feet out of his shoes. Damnest thing I ever saw.

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