Mayer: Sayers’ advice on education priceless for today’s athletes

If footballer Maurice Clarett or basketeer Ricky Clemons offers advice about the merits of education, run and hide. When a football icon the stature of Kansas University’s Gale Sayers does that, it behooves everyone to listen.

Gale was here Sept. 25 for that marvelous Don Fambrough honorary. One of his edicts from the podium was that Don as a Jack Mitchell assistant always stressed that Gale was here mainly for an education. Aiming at athletes, Sayers said sternly: “You have to prepare to play, and you have to prepare to quit. You get no education, SHAME ON YOU!”

Sayers came here from Omaha in 1961, and his grades weren’t good enough to justify a scholarship. Good, but proud, as he was, he never strolled around with his hand out; there were nights he went to bed hungry.

Gale worked and earned a grant. In the process he developed deep devotion for what intellectual as well as physical effort can do. Despite all his honors and awards, the three things in life he’s proudest about are his KU bachelor’s degree, his KU master’s degree and the fact he has done well in business. He long has been in the computer field in the Chicago area.

“I know what they were saying up in Omaha when I left for KU,” Gale says. “It was that I was too timid, too afraid of contact, to make the grade in college and that I was dumb to make my grades so I could get and stay eligible. For a long time, the fact I proved I was tough enough to be a Jayhawk and a pro was high on my pride list.

“That’s slipped down a notch. I knew God had given me unusual talents and that I could play. And that I could take the punishment. What I wasn’t sure of was my intelligence because my high school grades weren’t too good, bad, in fact.”

Two years All-American at Kansas, all-pro as a Chicago Bear great and a hall-of-fame choice despite playing only 68 games as a pro. As for timidity, watch him ram into those pro goal-line thickets. Some of those are as impressive as his many gallops to glory as a runner, receiver and returner.

He’s still flattered that fans recognize and admire him, as the big crowd did so lovingly here, after being out of football for 32 years.

Labeled Magic in Motion by Bear boss George Halas and Black Magic by beloved teammate Brian Piccolo, Sayers has come a long, long way from that shy, head-down, reclusive kid who stepped onto the local scene in the fall of 1961. He has become a polished speaker.

Nobody’s prouder of his educational achievements at KU, or more adamant about the need for jocks, stars or not, to get ready for the time they have to quit. Knee injuries ended Gale’s career far too soon; he emphasizes that pro careers seldom last more than four years and the practitioners better be ready for another life. Gale makes a pretty good case.

l OK, you can line up to touch me if you wish, because I had dinner here Sept. 25 with the widow of movie legend Cary Grant. With all the celebrities here for the Fambrough Bash, I was lucky enough to wind up sitting next to Barbara Jaynes and her husband, David, who just happened to become an All-American quarterback at KU.

Celebrated jocks I can be around any time, but Barbara Jaynes?

The former Barbara Harris was Cary Grant’s wife from 1981 until late 1986. They were on a tour with a program titled “Conversations With Cary Grant.” Cary suffered a stroke just before an Iowa appearance. He died at age 82 the next morning.

Not sure how David and Barbara met, but they now live in the Bel Air plushness of Los Angeles. KU benefactor Dana Anderson resides near. The couple are about 53. Even though Barbara never had an acting career, she and husband Dave are attractive enough they could walk onto a movie set right now and make the camera fall in love with them. They’re a delightful couple with no pretense or false airs.

Dave did well in real estate out west for a number of years and is now setting up a business where jet planes are rented or leased by individuals or firms for all sorts of trips. Costs much less than owning and maintaining a plane.

As for Gale Sayers’ trip from Omaha and down the lane of success, David Jaynes also has done right well.

A Bonner Springs passing whiz, he was recruited and signed by KU’s Pepper Rodgers in 1969 shortly before Pepper left here for the UCLA job. But there’s a lot more to that story. Originally, Jaynes decided to go to Alabama to play for Bear Bryant, who came up with none other than Joe Willie Namath in a ‘Bama jet to sign Dave to a letter of intent. Jaynes figured he might get lost in the shuffle at Tuscaloose and wisely figured Kansas fit better into his plans.

Fambrough was Jaynes’ coach (1971-73). Dave can go on for hours about the benefits he got from The Mentor and how Don gave him a sense of confidence that paid the same dividends that Sayers’ education did.

Of the Fam event, Dave remarked: “There’s nowhere in the world I would rather be tonight.” Like Sayers, Jaynes has become a witty and smooth speaker who had some jibes for Sayers and Bobby Douglass, another All-American at the lovefest.

Man, I am ceaselessly amazed at the quality, caliber and polish of the people who have gone through KU sports programs. I’ve been so lucky and feel so honored and dignified to have been around so many of them.

But Barbara Jaynes’s charm was a very special surprise. So line up now. You want my autograph or just wanna touch me? Quite a dish.