Cookie Gilchrist

Last updated

Cookie Gilchrist
No. 21, 34, 2, 30
Position: Halfback
Personal information
Born:(1935-05-25)May 25, 1935
Brackenridge, Pennsylvania
Died:January 10, 2011(2011-01-10) (aged 75)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:251 lb (114 kg)
Career information
High school: Har-Brack
(Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania)
Undrafted: 1954
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
Career AFL statistics
Rushing yards:4,293
Rushing average:4.3
Rushing touchdowns:37
Receiving yards:1,135
Receiving touchdowns:6
Career CFL statistics
Rushing yards:4,911
Rushing average:5.8
Rushing touchdowns:28
Receiving yards:1,068
Receiving touchdowns:5
Player stats at  ·  PFR

Carlton Chester "Cookie" Gilchrist (May 25, 1935 – January 10, 2011) was an American football player who played professionally in the American Football League (AFL) and Canadian Football League (CFL). [1] [2]



A star player at Har-Brack High School in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania, in 1953 he led the team to the W.P.I.A.L. co-championship with Donora. As a junior, he was talked into signing a professional football contract with the NFL's Cleveland Browns by Paul Brown. The signing was against NFL rules and likely illegal, and when Brown reneged on his promise that Gilchrist would make the team, Gilchrist left training camp at Hiram College, in Hiram, Ohio, and went to Canada to play. There, in the Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU), he received the Jim Shanks (Team MVP) Trophy for the Sarnia Imperials in 1954, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen's Team MVP Award in 1955.

In 1956, he joined the Canadian Football League (CFL) with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, helping lead them to a 1957 Grey Cup victory. He spent one season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, rushing for 1,254 yards. He then was traded to the Toronto Argonauts for Tex Schwierer, and played three years in Toronto. [3] In his six years in the CFL, Gilchrist was a divisional All-Star at running back five consecutive years from 1956 to 1960 (there were no All-Canadians selected in those years) and was also an Eastern All-Star at linebacker in 1960. Additionally, in 1960 he was runner up for the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award. In his CFL career, Gilchrist recorded 4,911 rushing yards, 1,068 receiving yards and 12 interceptions.

Gilchrist then joined the roster of the Buffalo Bills of the fledgling American Football League. Incidentally, Gilchrist was Buffalo's backup plan: they had actually drafted Ernie Davis to be the team's franchise running back in 1962. Davis instead chose the NFL, but died of leukemia before ever playing a down of professional football. The Bills instead signed Gilchrist as a free agent. While with Buffalo, Gilchrist played fullback and kicked, though he insisted he could have played both ways. He was the first 1,000-yard American Football League rusher, with 1,096 yards in a 14-game schedule in 1962. That year, he set the all-time AFL record for touchdowns with 13, and he earned AFL MVP honors. Gilchrist rushed for a professional football record 243 yards and five touchdowns in a single game against the New York Jets in 1963. Though he was with the Bills for only three years (1962–1964), he remains the team's ninth-leading rusher all-time, [4] and led the league in scoring in each of his three years as a Bill. Gilchrist ran for 122 yards in the Bills' 1964 American Football League championship defeat of the San Diego Chargers, 20-7. His 4.5 yard/rush average is second as a Bill only to O.J. Simpson. One of Gilchrist's strengths was blocking. Gilchrist's blocking was mentioned by broadcaster and ex-coach John Madden during a CBS TV broadcast in the 1987 season, saying "Cookie Gilchrist may have been the best blocking running back that ever played the game."

In an early civil rights victory for black athletes, Gilchrist led a successful boycott of New Orleans as the site of the 1965 American Football League All-Star game. He is the only athlete to turn down being enshrined into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum, because of what he described as racism and exploitation by management. Gilchrist frequently was at odds with team management. He told a reporter from the London Free Press that most of the problems he encountered were a result of his standing up for principles at a time when black athletes were expected to remain silent. [5] [6]

Gilchrist also played for the Denver Broncos in 1965 and 1967, and for the Miami Dolphins in 1966. He was sent to the man who started his career, Paul Brown in the Cincinnati Bengals expansion draft in 1968, but retired because of knee problems. He was an American Football League All-Star in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1965, making him one of only a few professional football players who made their league's All-Star team for 10 consecutive years (six in the CFL, and four in the AFL). Gilchrist was selected as the fullback of the All-Time American Football League Team. [7] The Professional Football Researchers Association named Gilchrist to the PRFA Hall of Very Good Class of 2013 [8]

Gilchrist was named to the Bills' Wall of Fame during the team's home game on October 29, 2017 against the Oakland Raiders.

Career regular season statistics

GeneralRushingReceivingField Goals & ConvertsInterceptions
1956 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 1308326.47021829715.5402000100273.560
1957 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 2049584.757788210.319000010036521.7552
1958 Saskatchewan Roughriders 2351,2545.3735151449.641000000000000
1959 Toronto Argonauts 874965.769457014.038114964.30241646616.5320
1960 Toronto Argonauts 14886627.57462534613.842218527.80484311616.0160
1961 Toronto Argonauts 121057096.8673151479.82409555.6311524120.5350
1962 Buffalo Bills 142141,0965.144132431913.3762208400171400000
1963 Buffalo Bills 142329794.23212242118.842200000000000
1964 Buffalo Bills 142309814.36763034511.537000000000000
1965 Denver Broncos 142529543.8446181548.6291000000000000
1966 Miami Dolphins 8722623.6220131108.522100000000000
1967 Denver Broncos 110212.1601-4-4.0-4000000000000
CFL Totals8494,9115.87428861,06812.4425411946.3483641219516.3552
AFL Totals651,0104,2934.367371101,13510.376620840.00171400000
Career Totals1,8599,2045.074651962,20311.27611612744.34100781219516.3552

After football

In 1974, Gilchrist founded the United Athletes Coalition of America to help former football players adjust to life after retirement. In 1975, he booked Marvin Gaye, Ike & Tina Turner, and Taveres for a benefit concert at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. [9]

Gilchrist had numerous feuds with the people he worked with during his football career. He refused entry into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame because he did not believe he was paid well enough for his service. [10] [11] He also refused to accept enshrinement on the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame because he wanted payment for appearing; Van Miller eventually convinced Gilchrist to change his mind, but Gilchrist was not inducted prior to his death. [12] Gilchrist was posthumously inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. [13] Gilchrist did accept induction onto the Bills' Wall of Honor, the predecessor to the Wall of Fame that had been set up at War Memorial Stadium in 1970, but none of the honorees on that wall were carried over to Rich Stadium when it was built in 1973. [14] On August 30, 2017, the Bills announced that he would be inducted into the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame. [15]

In an article in The Buffalo News on March 18, 2007, Gilchrist, then 71, announced that he was being treated for throat cancer. At the time, he lived in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania.

On January 10, 2011, Gilchrist died at an assisted living facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. [10] [16] Gilchrist was posthumously diagnosed with stage four chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which may explain, in part, some of his behavioural difficulties. [11] Gilchrist was aware of the possibility that he had the disease when writing his autobiography, The Cookie That Did Not Crumble, along with Chris Garbarino[ citation needed ]. Consequently, he donated his brain to the Canadian Sports Concussion Project for use in their study of CTE.

Personal life


See also

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  1. "Cookie Gilchrist". obituary. January 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  2. Goldstein, Richard (January 10, 2011). "Cookie Gilchrist, early star of the A.F.L., dies at 75". New York Times. obituary. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  3. Toronto Star, Thursday July 28, 1960, page 15.
  5. "Flamboyant football player Cookie Gilchrist became a fan favourite in high school and continued to be a big draw in Canadian and American leagues".
  6. "Cookie Gilchrist, An Athlete with Principles". Archived from the original on May 27, 2017. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  7. Graham, Tim. "Cookie Gilchrist rumbled right until the end". ESPN, Inc. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  8. "Professional Researchers Association Hall of Very Good Class of 2013". Archived from the original on January 4, 2017. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  9. "Gilchrist Launches Drive To Assist Athletes Group". Jet: 50. February 6, 1975.
  10. 1 2 Graham, Tim (January 11, 2011). Cookie Gilchrist rumbled right until the end. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  11. 1 2 Gaughan, Mark (November 6, 2011). Gilchrist had severe damage to brain. The Buffalo News. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  12. Van Miller on the passing of Bills RB Cookie Gilchrist Archived January 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine . WIVB-TV. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
  13. Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame 2011 Archived July 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine . WIVB-TV. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
  14. Sullivan, Jerry (June 29, 2015). "Door may be ajar to honor Bills greats Saban, Gilchrist". The Buffalo News. Retrieved June 29, 2015.[ permanent dead link ]
  16. Although the obituary published on January 10, 2011 in the New York Times <> and on January 10, 2011 in the Buffalo News <> both say he died in Pittsburgh.
  17. Brown, Chris (June 17, 2011). The untouchable numbers Archived May 16, 2018, at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved 2011-06-17.
  18. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 13, 2014. Retrieved November 25, 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. Ceravolo, Jadon (October 29, 2017). "Bills Today: Cookie Gilchrist joining the Bills Wall of Fame". Archived from the original on January 16, 2018. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
Preceded by
George Blanda
American Football League MVP
with Len Dawson
Succeeded by
Lance Alworth, Clem Daniels, & Tobin Rote