EXCLUSIVE: Nicholas Sparks and Theresa Park have acquired Gale Sayers‘ life rights and his memoirs I Am Third and Sayers: My Life And Times and have partnered with Michael Costigan to produce a feature film that focuses primarily on the friendship between the NFL Hall of Famer and teammate Brian Piccolo when both started out in the backfield of the Chicago Bears. Although Piccolo led the nation in rushing at Wake Forest in 1964, he was considered undersized and didn’t get drafted but made the Bears as a free agent. Sayers came out of the University of Kansas considered the most talented running back in the draft crop and the Bears made him a first-round draft pick. His career took off immediately and he scored 22 touchdowns as a rookie, while Piccolo struggled just to hang on.
In an atmosphere where white players and black players didn’t congregate much, the two slowly became friends and then roommates. When Sayers tore ligaments in his right knee in his third season, Piccolo coaxed him through a grueling rehab. When Piccolo became ill with cancer, Sayers stayed by his side until his death. Their friendship was memorably chronicled in the classic James Caan-Billy Dee Williams telepic Brian’s Song, and most guys my age still get misty just hearing the theme song. They aren’t remaking that pic, they will get an original script based on Sayers’ books, and Sparks and Park will produce under the Nicholas Sparks Production banner with Costigan through his COTA Films. Sparks won’t write the script.