May 25, 1935|
Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||January 10, 2011
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Jersey #(s)||21, 34, 2, 30|
|CFL All-Star||1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960|
|AFL All-Star||1962, 1963, 1964, 1965|
|Awards||1960 Runner Up CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award
1962 AP, UPI AFL MVP,
2× AFL Rushing champion (1962, 1964)
|Honors||Grey Cup Champion 1957
American Football League Champion, 1964
All-Time All-AFL Fullback
|Records||Most rushing touchdowns,
season, 13 (1962)
|ORFU Sarnia Imperials
ORFU Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen
CFL Hamilton Tiger-Cats
CFL Saskatchewan Roughriders
CFL Toronto Argonauts
AFL Buffalo Bills
AFL Denver Broncos
AFL Miami Dolphins
A star player at Har-Brack High School (Natrona Heights, Pa), 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. 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 eighth-leading rusher all-time, 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.
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.
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.
Career regular season statistics
|Team||Rushing||Receiving||Field Goals & Converts||Interceptions|
Gilchrist had numerous feuds with the people he worked with during his football career. He refused entry into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame on account that he did not believe he was paid well enough for his service. 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. Gilchrist was posthumously inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
On January 10, 2011, Gilchrist died at an assisted living facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was posthumously diagnosed with stage four chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which may explain, in part, some of his behavioural difficulties. 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.
- First American Football League player to gain over 1,000 yards in a season (14 games, 1,096 yards in 1962)
- Previously held the American professional football record for most yards rushing in a game, 243 yards vs. the New York Jets, on December 8, 1963.
- His number 34 has been unofficially set aside by the Buffalo Bills, to honor both him and Thurman Thomas, who also wore the number.
- Toronto Star, Thursday 28 July 1960, page 15.
- Graham, Tim (2011-01-11). Cookie Gilchrist rumbled right until the end. ESPN.com. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
- Gaughan, Mark (November 6, 2011). Gilchrist had severe damage to brain. The Buffalo News. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
- Van Miller on the passing of Bills RB Cookie Gilchrist. WIVB-TV. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
- Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame 2011. WIVB-TV. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
- Brown, Chris (2011-06-17). The untouchable numbers. BuffaloBills.com. Retrieved 2011-06-17.
- Cookie Gilchrist's Official Website Maintained By The Gilchrist Family
- Obituary from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Cookie Gilchrist's CFL statistics
|American Football League MVP
with Len Dawson
Lance Alworth, Clem Daniels, & Tobin Rote
|American Football League Rushing Leader
1962 (14 games)
1,096 yds, 5.1 yds/att
|American Football League Rushing Leader
1964 (14 games)
981 yds, 4.3 yds/att