|Sport||Track & Field|
They called Roger Sayers “the Rocket” for good reason.
After all, he beat the “Bullet” in the 100-yard dash.
Regarded as one of the fastest men in the history of Omaha athletics, Sayers finished his track career as a decorated amateur athlete.
After winning gold medals at state for Omaha Central in the 100- and 220-yard dashes in 1958, Sayers went to Omaha University to compete in track and football.
On the track, he won NAIA championships in the 100 in 1962 and the 100 and 200 in ’63. His 100 time of 10.2 in ’62 was tied for second best in the world, and his 200 time of 21.0 was tied for fifth.
Sayers won 28 consecutive races as a freshman in ’61. He beat future Olympic gold medalist “Bullet” Bob Hayes twice in the 100 during ’62. Sayers then would compete for the U.S. national track team in duals against Poland and the Soviet Union.
But Sayers pulled a thigh muscle in ’64 and wasn’t able to compete for a spot on the Olympic team. Hayes, who would later star as a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, went on to win the gold medal in the 100.
“I couldn’t heal fast enough to be considered for the Olympic Trials,” said Sayers, who added he never considered hanging around to make a run at the ’68 Olympics. “I did some petitioning and tried to get some waivers, but there wasn’t enough time. I’d like to think I would have had a real good chance at making the team.”
Sayers’ younger brother, Gale, would end up having a Hall of Fame career in the NFL. Roger was just 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds, but he made his own mark on the football field.
He rushed for 2,033 yards in college and easily holds the school record for yards per carry (8.6). His 99-yard touchdown catch in ’63 is the longest scoring play from scrimmage in program history.
Sayers was inducted into the NAIA Track Hall of Fame, the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame and the UNO Hall of Fame for football and track.
Played for: Omaha Central High, Omaha University and Team USA
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Gale Sayers and Marlin Briscoe, NFL-bound teammates in high school and college. His brother, Gale, is a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Best moment as an athlete: Competing for the U.S. track team in 1962 in duals against Poland and the Soviet Union. "That was one of the best USA track teams ever assembled, and being a part of that team was my greatest moment as an athlete," he said.
Sayers was No. 33 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »