What made Gale Sayers so special and why he’d fit in well in today’s NFL

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George Halas, the 70-year-old head coach of the Chicago Bears in 1965, stepped in front of reporters after rookie Gale Sayers scored six touchdowns in a 61-20 victory over San Francisco on Dec. 12, 1965.

“That,” Halas said, “was the most impressive game I’ve ever seen by a player in all my years in football.”

Halas had been playing or coaching pro football since 1919.

I loved Sayers, who died this week at age 77 after living with dementia. As a kid who grew up loving all sports, I remember Sayers was the first athlete who amazed me. How does he do that? Take a minute and watch this highlight reel of the six touchdowns by the 6-foot-1 comet who was a chiseled 200 pounds—80-yard screen pass and sprint, 21-yard run and dive, 7-yard run, 50-yard run, 1-yard dive landing his head in the end zone, and 85-yard punt return, with a cut left at his own 40-yard line that looked like it had to have been done on a pristine field with zero slippage, not on a muddy bog after some heavy rain at Wrigley Field.

Sayers touched the ball 16 times that day. He gained 336 total yards. The next year he had a 339-yard game, and when the NFL turned 50 in 1970, those were two of three biggest all-purpose yardage games in NFL history.

Did you see number 64 in white (or white and mud) on that highlight package? You might have seen 64 flopping around in the mud like so many of his Niners mates on the video. That’s Dave Wilcox, the Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker. He’s 77 now (78 tomorrow), and was 23 that muddy day at Wrigley. I spoke with him the other night, and his memory of the day is quite good.

“I remember that day very well,” Wilcox said from his home in Oregon. “We woke up in the hotel in Chicago that morning and we were kind of happy. ‘It’s gonna rain! It’ll slow Sayers down!’ I tell everyone if they hadn’t run out of oxygen that day, Gale might have scored six more. I remember our game plan—if they threw passes in the flat for him, they wanted us [the linebackers] to cover him. I said, ‘You want US to cover that guy? We won’t even get close to him in the tunnel before the game!’ “

On that screen pass, Sayers took it to his right, and then Wilcox flashed on the film briefly, but Sayers put his foot in the ground, sprinted left, and he was gone. No chance for any Niner. Time and again: Sayers is running pretty normally, and everyone else is slipping all over the place. His cut on that 85-yard punt return caused two Niners to go careening past comically.

“You look back,” said Wilcox, “and the first thing you say is, ‘How lucky was I to be in the same ballpark that day, on the field with such a great player?’ After a while, you knew there was no way anyone would catch him—he’d have to trip or slide. Jim Brown was bigger and stronger, but there was nothing like Sayers’ speed and quickness. I mean, to this day, I haven’t seen anything like it. Not even Barry Sanders. He’s the only one who’s close. No human being should be able to change directions with the quickness and speed Gale had.”

The next season, at the Pro Bowl, Wilcox and Sayers were in the same locker room for the first time. They hadn’t met. Wilcox approached him and stuck out his hand.

“Gale, my name’s Dave Wilcox, with the 49ers,” he said. “I just wanted to meet you and see what you looked like up close.”

Three other things about Sayers.

He’d fit in well today, in all ways. Not only would he be a Kamara-type force in a spread offense, only quicker, but he’d be right with Patrick Mahomes and Malcolm Jenkins off the field too. After being drafted by the Bears, while finishing his senior year at Kansas, the Bloody Sunday march was held in Selma, Ala. The next day, Sayers was arrested while staging a sit-in to protest discrimination at KU housing and Greek housing. “They respect me as a football star, but not as a Negro,” he told reporters.

He helped break down racial barriers. In 1967, the Bears roomed Sayers with a white backup running back, Brian Piccolo. It was the start of a three-year friendship on and off the field that ended when Piccolo died of cancer in 1970. Piccolo pushed Sayers to come back from a major knee injury in 1969, and Sayers doted on Piccolo when he was ill. In early 1970, Sayers was presented with the league’s most courageous player award for the 1969 season, and he told a New York banquet crowd that the award was his that night, but it would be in Piccolo’s hands the next day. That’s why you might have seen the Bill Dee Williams/James Caan “Brian’s Song” movie on TV last week. Seven months after scoring his final NFL touchdown, Piccolo died in New York. After the movie came out, the students in a New York City middle school were so inspired they got the city to rename the school after Piccolo.

He’s an interesting Hall of Fame argument. Over the years, people have pointed to the short career of Sayers (68 games, four full seasons, only 991 rushes) as an example of over-rewarding a meteoric career. My retort: Watch the grainy highlights. To me, Sayers was spectacular enough in his four full seasons to earn a spot in Canton, and we haven’t even mentioned the fact that his 30.56-yard average kickoff return is the best in NFL history and hasn’t been touched in the 49 years since his retirement. I’ve always thought Sayers is the classic example for Hall voters of judging what your eyes see, not what the stats say. And the stats are pretty good anyway, just shallow.

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here.

What to know about Super Bowl 2023: Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

Super Bowl 2023 is right around the corner! Here's everything you need to know about the big game.
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The NFL is finally back in session and Super Bowl 2023 will be here before we know it! See below for answers to all of your questions about the big game. Be sure to tune to NBC and Peacock every week for Sunday Night Football games this season.

Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET with Football Night in America but the excitement starts early on Sundays with Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Football Pregame show beginning at 11 AM ET on Peacock and the NFL on NBC YouTube channel.

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

 

When is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 takes place on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

Where is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 will be contested at State Farm Stadium–home of the Arizona Cardinals– in Glendale, Arizona.

Who is performing the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023?

It was announced in September, that international popstar, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Rihanna will headline the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023.

RELATED: How to watch Matthew Berry on NBC Sports

When was the last time Rihanna released an album?

Rihanna’s most recent album “Anti” came out in 2016. The Barbados native has spent the last few years venturing into various business industries including beauty, fashion, and makeup. Additionally, the superstar welcomed her first child, a boy, in May of 2022.

Why does the NFL use Roman numerals?

AFL and Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt proposed using Roman numerals for each Super Bowl to add pomp and gravitas to the game. Roman numerals were, unsurprisingly, used in ancient Rome as a number system. I stands for 1, V for 5, X for 10, L for 50 and C for 100. That’s right: In 2066, get ready for Super Bowl C.

Super Bowl V was the first to use Roman numerals. They were retroactively added to the Super Bowl II to IV logos and have been used each year since⁠ until 2016. For Super Bowl L, or 50, the NFL tried out 73 different logos before breaking down and using a plain old “50.”

The Roman numerals for this year’s big game, Super Bowl 57, are LVII.

Which NFL team has the most Super Bowl wins in NFL history?

The Patriots and Steelers are not only familiar with playing on the big stage, but they also know what it takes to come out on top. New England and Pittsburgh are tied for the most Super Bowl victories in the NFL with six each. The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys have won five Lombardi Trophies each and the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants are tied with four Super Bowl championships.

  • New England Patriots: 6
  • Pittsburgh Steelers: 6
  • San Francisco 49ers: 5
  • Dallas Cowboys: 5
  • Green Bay Packers: 4
  • New York Giants: 4

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

What devices are compatible with Peacock?

Peacock is available on a variety of devices. See the full list here.

In addition to Sunday Night Football, what else can I watch with Peacock Premium?

Premium is your key to unlocking everything Peacock has to offer. You’ll get access to all the live sports and events we have, including Premier League and WWE Premium Live Events like WrestleMania. You’ll also get full seasons of exclusive Peacock Original series, next-day airings of current NBC and Telemundo hits, plus every movie and show available on Peacock. There is always something new to discover on Peacock Premium.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

How to watch the NFL on Peacock: Full Sunday Night Football Schedule, live stream info for the 2022 season

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The 2022 NFL Season is in full gear. This week it’s Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a rematch of Super Bowl LV. Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. with Football Night in America. Kickoff time is at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.

Every Sunday Night Football game this season will be available on both NBC and Peacock. See below for the full 2022 Sunday Night Football schedule as well as additional information on how to watch every game on Peacock.

RELATED: How to watch Matthew Berry on NBC Sports

2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule:

*Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Thursday, Sept. 8 (Week 1) – Josh Allen’s four touchdowns power Bills to 31-10 victory over Rams

Sunday, Sept. 11 (Week 1) – Bucs take care of business against Cowboys, who lose Dak Prescott late

Sunday, Sept. 18 (Week 2) – Packers roll over Bears 27-10 as Aaron Jones, Preston Smith star

Sunday, Sept. 25 (Week 3) – Broncos do just enough to pull off 11-10 win over 49ers

Sunday, Oct. 2 (Week 4) – Chiefs at Buccaneers

Sunday, Oct. 9 (Week 5) – Bengals at Ravens

Sunday, Oct. 16 (Week 6) – Cowboys at Eagles

Sunday, Oct. 23 (Week 7) – Steelers at Dolphins

Sunday, Oct. 30 (Week 8) – Packers at Bills

Sunday, Nov. 6 (Week 9) – Titans at Chiefs

Sunday, Nov. 13 (Week 10) – Chargers at 49ers

Sunday, Nov. 20 (Week 11) – Bengals at Steelers

Thursday, Nov. 24 (Week 12) – Patriots at Vikings

Sunday, Nov. 27 (Week 12) – Packers at Eagles

Sunday, Dec. 4 (Week 13) – Colts at Cowboys

Sunday, Dec. 11 (Week 14) – Chiefs at Broncos

Sunday, Dec. 18 (Week 15) – Patriots at Raiders

Sunday, Dec. 25 (Week 16) – Buccaneers at Cardinals

Sunday, Jan. 1 (Week 17) – Rams at Chargers

Sunday, Jan. 8 (Week 18) – Matchup TBD

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

What devices are compatible with Peacock?

Peacock is available on a variety of devices. See the full list here.

In addition to Sunday Night Football, what else can I watch with Peacock Premium?

Premium is your key to unlocking everything Peacock has to offer. You’ll get access to all the live sports and events we have, including Premier League and WWE Premium Live Events like WrestleMania. You’ll also get full seasons of exclusive Peacock Original series, next-day airings of current NBC and Telemundo hits, plus every movie and show available on Peacock. There is always something new to discover on Peacock Premium.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!