Former Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers, who became the youngest player ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame 40 years ago, was diagnosed with dementia four years ago, according to a story in Sunday's Kansas City Star.
Sayers, 73, barely spoke during a seven-hour visit by The Star last week. However, his wife, Ardie Sayers, says he can hold conversations at other times.
Ardie Sayers told the Star she believes the dementia began as far back as 2009, but she said Gale remains fine physically. She has been moving him home from a facility where he stayed the last few months.
She wants to set the record straight regarding false impressions others might have.
"Other people start making up stories, and people are asking about him more and more," she told the Star. "People must know."
Vahe Gregorian, author of the Star article, wrote, "While family and friends were attributing his increasing forgetfulness to the normal aging process, others recognized vulnerability. Over time, the family came to realize people they trusted had taken advantage of him in various ways."
At the Sayers' house, there are a number of photos of Gale in his Bears uniform, including one with Brian Piccolo. The friendship was the theme of a movie titled, "Brian's Song," about Piccolo's battle with cancer, which eventually killed him.
Members of the Sayers family believe football contributed to Gale's mental state.
After an All-American career at Kansas, Gale played seven seasons in the NFL with the Bears, though the injuries that eventually led to his early retirement limited him to five productive seasons.
He led the league in rushing twice and was a five-time first-team All-Pro (1965-1969). He played just two games in 1970 and two more in 1971 before retiring during the 1972 preseason.