3. Gale Sayers:
Jim Brown was able to maintain a full body of work despite retiring early. Sadly enough, Sayers was not. He could have joined Brown as one the greatest NFL running backs ever. Ultimately, he may already be there even though he was forced into retirement quite early.
The “Kansas Comet” stormed into the NFL by winning the NFL Rookie of the Year award in 1965. He led the league in rushing yards twice. Sayers had five First-team All-Pros selections and four Pro Bowl appearances. A serious knee injury to his right knee in 1968 followed by one to his left knee in 1970 sapped much of his speed. Sayers attempted to come back in 1971 but injured his ankle. He retired before the 1972 regular season. Sayers’ career technically lasted seven seasons but it was truly only around five full seasons. He had 4,956 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns, adding 3,17 more return yards for another eight touchdowns.
Sayers became one of the all-time greats in only five years, showing how talented he truly was. Fans never got to see what his career could have been. His story is one of the toughest based on his potential.