Cookie Gilchrist


BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Cookie Gilchrist, one of the American Football League's first marquee players whose ferocious running style drew comparisons to that of the great Jim Brown, died of cancer Friday. He was 75.

He died early Monday at an assisted living facility near Pittsburgh, nephew Thomas Gilchrist said. He was first diagnosed with throat cancer, and the disease spread to his prostate and colon.

"The Bills were very lucky to have procured the services of Cookie Gilchrist, who was one of the greatest fullbacks I have ever seen in all of my years in professional football," said Ralph Wilson, the 92-year-old Buffalo owner.

Gilchrist's alluring nickname belied the notion that he might easily crumble. He was a 251-pound bruiser, and his grit and single-mindedness extended beyond the football field. He took stands against racism and wasn't afraid to demand better contracts.

Carlton Chester "Cookie" Gilchrist joined the Bills of the AFL in 1962 and spent three seasons there. He was the league's player of the year in 1962, when he had 1,096 yards rushing and a league-leading 13 touchdowns. In 1964, Gilchrist and quarterback Jack Kemp led the Bills to their first of two straight AFL championships.

Before joining the Bills he spent six years in the Canadian Football League, where he is regarded as one of its top two-way players.

Cornerback Booker Edgerson, a former Bills teammate, said Gilchrist was "just as good and maybe even better" than Brown. "He and Jim had the same outstanding abilities to play the game," he added.

Edgerson noted that Gilchrist also starred at linebacker in the CFL and wanted to play the position in Buffalo.

"Yeah, he was tough," Edgerson said. "If they would've allowed him to play linebacker, he would've kicked a lot of butt."

Gilchrist led the AFL in yards rushing for three straight seasons (1963-65) and touchdowns (1962-64). His most notable game came in Buffalo's 45-14 win over the New York Jets in 1963. He set a then pro football record with 243 yards rushing and became only the fourth player to score five touchdowns - one short of the record set by Ernie Nevers.

After Buffalo, Gilchrist spent two seasons with Denver and one with Miami.

Retired Buffalo News football writer Larry Felser covered Gilchrist during his days with the Bills and still regards him as the best to play the game. Felser wrote in 2004: "Any time. Any place. Any brand of football. Cookie was, pound for pound, the greatest all-around player I ever saw. He would be a superstar in today's football."

Gilchrist also displayed a different kind of toughness. He and a group of black players boycotted the 1965 AFL All-Star Game in New Orleans after they weren't allowed into a bar and had difficulty catching taxi cabs. The game was eventually moved and played in Houston.

Gilchrist is the only player to turn down induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He cited racism and exploitation by team management.

Gilchrist had a long-running feud with Wilson after the team waived him in 1964. Gilchrist refused to return to Buffalo to attend alumni functions unless he was paid. Gilchrist and Wilson finally settled their differences last week during a phone conversation, Thomas Gilchrist said. "I'm glad they had that conversation," Edgerson said. "When I visited him, he told me, 'I've got to bury the hatchet with Mr. Wilson."

On Monday, Wilson called it a "good conversation." Edgerson called Gilchrist a unique individual, who wasn't afraid to speak out for better pay.

"He was 30 years ahead of his time," Edgerson said. "He believed in what he did, good bad or indifferent. And he would go where ever he had to make it work."

Gilchrist was a four-time AFL Pro Bowl selection. He and O.J. Simpson are the only two Bills players to score touchdowns rushing in seven straight games, and Gilchrist's 128 points in 1962 is the fourth-highest single-season total.

Born in Brackenridge, Pa., Gilchrist was 18 when he was lured out of high school by the Cleveland Browns. He failed to make the team and that led him to Canada, where he played six seasons with Hamilton, Saskatchewan and the final three in Toronto.

He led Hamilton to a Grey Cup victory in 1957. Gilchrist was a six-time division all-star, five times as a running back and once as a linebacker.

The Toronto Argonauts media guide refers to him as a "charismatic and volatile free spirit, who many claim was the best all-around athlete to ever play for the Argos."

Gilchrist is survived by sons Jeffrey and Scott and daughter Christina Gilchrist all of Toronto, and two grandchildren.

Visitation is Wednesday at the Ross G. Walker Funeral home in New Kensington, Pa. The funeral is Thursday.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

Guest Book

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Thank you so much for your condolences. Please contact me I will send you the book as well as the documentary on my Father.

Rest in peace, Cookie.

1953.....a cold day at old Pitt Stadium. The team from the town of Donora were playing Harbrack High for the WPIAL football championship. I was a member of the Donora High band.

I remember only 1 play! Harbrack was in Donora territory advancing toward the goal line in a 0-0 tie. Harbrack lined up for the play. Immediately after the ball was snapped, a huge fellow from Harbrack blew out of the line of scrimmage running toward the end zone. The...

Did Cookie ever play for a small football team in Buffalo, in the late 50's early 60's?

Hello all. I'd like to express sadness seeing the passing of a great family man and an outstanding athletic, Cookie Gilchrist. My last name is Gilchrist, and my aunt told me that Cookie Gilchrist was my cousin. I'm sorry I will never have the chance to meet him. To everyone reading this, go down your family tree and greet the family you never knew you had with open arms.......Family is forever....N.J.Gilchrist, East Chicago, In.

Thank You All. Grand folks who have expressed to Dad your moments and thoughts his flow
time with you.. He would be in Awww and pretty humble by this expression of affection love simple folk stuff. He rarely shared with us his field play but he exposed us to people he adored.. The People always surrounded by people who loved their players. Hated it !! but I understood his role... He's Passed tired everything to live a healthy life style way back in the 60's early health food guy I hated...

Taking this time to express my gentle thoughts of my Father... Reading everyone's special words of memories. Truly kind knowable folks who gave a moment in time to put down... Dad would be in Awww.. He never expected much just that people remember their story.. I say Thank You to you all for making my Dad not feel alone...Good Dad taught me how to cook, shave, dry off with a towel... Most of all to just be you be kind be honest never ask for anything from anyone but give of yourself let it...

I played football at Har-Brack briefly with
Cookie. It was a collision with him in practice that convinced me I was too lightweight
to be playing football. Cookie and I had a
brief correspondence a year or so before he
passed. He was a friendly guy and I much
admired him.
Regards to all Har-Brack alumni who sent
their condolences.