Meeting a Legend and Presenting to a Legend
I grew up in Topeka, KS, just 30 miles to the west of Lawrence, KS, where the University of Kansas is located. At some point in my childhood I became aware of Gayle Sayers, his football skills as a Jayhawk at the University of Kansas, and his relationship with Brian Piccalo, which was the inspiration for the movie “Brian’s Song.”
I was excited when I heard that our show group contracted with Sayers to give our keynote address. While the people of Chicago see him as a Bear, I see him as a Jayhawk. So, it’s no surprise that when I met him prior to the keynote address, the second thing I said to him was that I was a fellow Jayhawk. Of course, he probably hears that more often than I think, but still, he seemed pleased, saying, “Rock Chalk Jayhawk!”
He is a soft-spoken man who seemed to want to sink into the background but who had learned long ago that because of his achievements, he would never be able to go unnoticed in a crowd—and he seemed to have accepted that. He signed several autographs for some of the staff. As people trickled into the room prior to the Lifetime Achievement Award presentation and the keynote address, some of them came up to him to say hello and get autographs signed. He quietly and kindly obliged each one.
Before Sayers gave his keynote address, I had the honor of presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to Rick Caro. After taking several pictures with him, Caro then gave a short speech (detailed in an entry below). Caro then introduced Sayers, who gave a short speech and then took questions from the audience (detailed in an entry below).
Afterwards, Sayers patiently signed autographs and posed for pictures with some of the 300 people in attendance at the presentation. He stayed until everyone had left, and then he did a short interview with me for a video that the Club Industry show group is putting together. Later, Tara Kuhn, the marketing director for the Club Industry show group, led Sayers around on the show floor to see the equipment. He told me that he was interested in seeing some of the equipment to see what he might want to add to his home gym.
Prior to saying goodbye, I asked if he had seen the KU football game the weekend before in which the Jayhawks had almost beaten the University of Nebraska. He smiled and we commiserated about how the Jayhawks had not gone for a two-point conversion at the end of the game, which sent the game into overtime and eventually meant that the Cornhuskers won. He said that the team is one or two players away from being a very good team and we spent several more minutes talking Jayhawk football. He didn’t seem rushed like he wanted to leave. He seemed to enjoy in a polite and quiet manner talking with the people around him, and I felt a great satisfaction in knowing that sometimes the people you admire really are as nice as you hope they’ll be.