Now it was the second quarter, and again Sayers swung wide to his left, running with the long, low stride that makes his speed appear to be effortless. As he started to turn upfield he feinted another left-handed pass, and a Giant linebacker froze momentarily, which was long enough for big Mike Ditka, the Bear tight end, to obliterate him. Sayers brought the ball down, accelerated and zipped past a cluster of Giant defenders with the smooth speed of a hunting leopard.
"When he does things like that, we look at each other on the sideline and shake our heads," Halas says. "He is a great instinctive runner. We haven't tried to teach him anything about running."
Sayers himself cannot explain his ability. "I have no idea what I do," he says. "I hear people talk about dead leg, shake, change of pace and all that, but I do things without thinking about them. Like on the long run, when I faked the pass. That is not part of the play. The play was called purely as a run, but for some reason I faked the pass and it worked out pretty well.
"I know I've still got a lot to learn, and I'm working on it. I've improved my blocking some, but I'm not working real well with the blockers ahead of me on runs. I don't think I have approached my peak. I mean, once I learn how to set up the blocks and how to mesh my speed with my blockers I'll be better. I'm working hard on that."
As a receiver Sayers is much better than average, and this is a skill he developed during the summer before he reported to the Bears. "I guess everybody knows we did not throw the ball much at Kansas," he says. "Under Jack Mitchell we were a running team. I had offers from 75 to 100 colleges when I got out of high school. All the Big Eight, all the Big Ten, Notre Dame, UCLA-schools like that. I took Kansas because I liked Coach Mitchell, and it was close to home. I made the right choice. He developed me. He taught me the refinements of running. He was a great coach and a fine human being, and we hit it off. But we didn't pass much." On his own, Sayers spent tedious but rewarding hours during the summer catching passes. "I started with good hands," he says. "But I had to get the feel of it. Now I think I can catch anything they want to throw me."
In the Bear dressing room after the game Sayers was an impressive sight. Although he weighs only 200 pounds, his thighs look as big and strong as Jim Brown's, and he has heavily muscled arms and shoulders. His waist is negligible, and he has the bunched, powerful buttocks of all strong runners. "I was pretty little when I started high school at Omaha Central," he said. "I weighed 110 pounds as a freshman. Then, in the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I gained 50 pounds. I'm not quite sure why, except I spent all summer cutting lawns, and I guess pushing a lawnmower built me up. And I guess I was at the age to mature and grow."
At Omaha High he was a spectacular back and a good hurdler. His older brother, Roger, was a 9.4 sprinter. Gale has no idea how fast he is; he has never been timed in a sprint. A younger brother, who is a freshman football player at the University of Omaha, is bigger than Gale and probably is already noted in every scouting dossier in both pro leagues.
Gale was an All-America two years in a row at Kansas, but he got off to a so-so start with the Bears after spending three weeks in the College All-Star training camp. He did not play in the game. Most of the players who were at that camp have said since that there was a personality clash between Sayers and Coach Otto Graham, but Sayers will not comment on that. "I was hurt," he says quietly. "That's all."
At any rate, Sayers was not acclimated in the Bears' opening game against San Francisco (won by the 49ers), and he was in for only a few plays the next week against Los Angeles. The Bears lost that game, too. However, Sayers started against Green Bay the following week and, significantly, it was in the second half of that game that Chicago caught fire, although the result on the scoreboard was another defeat. Since then, the Bears have won seven of eight games, and Sayers has contributed strongly to each victory.
His two touchdowns last Sunday in New York brought his total for the year to 14, a new league record for rookies, with three games still to be played. The old record was not set by Jim Brown, incidentally, but by a pass receiver, End Bill Howton, in 1952.