A Hall of Fame Comparison – COOKIE GILCHRIST

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There is a feeling among AFL fans that the American Football League players are consistently overlooked for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  In truth there are many players, the bulk of whose careers were spent in the AFL, that deserve serious consideration, if not outright induction.  In an effort to spark some discussion regarding their hall of fame worthiness, I will occasionally compare AFL players to their NFL (and Hall of Fame) counterparts. The short biographies on the NFL players have been taken directly from the Pro Football Hall of Fame website.

Autographed 1963 Fleer Cookie Gilchrist

#23 – Cookie Gilchrist

Today’s comparison is between Cookie Gilchrist, primarily of the Buffalo Bills and two HoF running backs, Paul Hornung and Gale Sayers.

Carlton Chester “Cookie” Gilchrist – Exceptional Canadian League player, who earned AFL MVP honors his first year in the league…  Could play every position on the field…  Four-time AFL All-Star…  Twice led the AFL in rushing…  4,293 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns in just 65 AFL games (66 yds/game avg)…  AFL champion in 1964…  AFL All-Time Second Team member…

Paul Vernon Hornung – Heisman Trophy winner, All-America at Notre Dame. . .Bonus draft pick, 1957. . .Multi-talented clutch player, at best inside 20-yard line. . .NFL Player of Year, 1960, 1961. . .Led NFL scorers three years with record 176 points in 1960. . .Career stats: 3,711 yards rushing, 130 receptions, 760 points. . .Tallied record 19 points in 1961 NFL title game. . . Played in two Pro Bowls. . .

Gale Eugene Sayers Kansas All-America. . .Exceptional break-away runner. . .Scored rookie record 22 TDs, 132 points, 1965. . .Led NFL rushers, 1966, 1969. . .Named all-time NFL halfback, 1969. . . All-NFL five straight years. . .Player of Game in three Pro Bowls. . .Career totals: 9,435 combined net yards, 4,956 yards rushing, 336 points. . . NFL lifetime kickoff return leader. . .

I expect this comparison to inspire some interesting comments and opinions.  Cookie Gilchrist was one of the most dominant football players to ever strap on a pair of shoulder pads.  He could run, tackle, kick, throw, block and most anything else that one might ask of him on the field.  The question with Cookie was would he does all those things when called upon?  He admittedly quit in one game, sending himself to the bench, which sparked the ire of head coach, Lou Saban.  Cookie was often a distraction off of the field, and as a result, never stayed long with one team.  Still, the statistics speak for themselves, as do every player that either played alongside or opposite Cookie Gilchrist.  Everyone that ever saw him speaks to his absolute dominance on a football field.  Additionally, the Canadian league records; while they do not count towards the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Cookie was a five-time CFL all-star and one of the greatest to ever play in the Great White North.  So, what do you do with a guy like this?  One of the greatest to ever play, played a short career in America (because Paul Brown got his hands on him too early), and often difficult to deal with off the field.  Is he Hall of Fame material? Thoughts?

Todd Tobias (775 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.



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17 Responses to A Hall of Fame Comparison – COOKIE GILCHRIST

  1. Howard says:

    I wish I saw him play! He seemed like a beast! Reminds me a bit of Duane Thomas o Dallas. He was a awesome player, but, more of a “flower child” as far as attitude.
    I would have liked to have seen both of them play for 10 years. Each would have broken all sorts of records.
    While I loved the 1960’s Packers, I always thought Hornung was a “reach’ for HOF. He was a good runner, option passer, and kicker. But, I think he had the Notre Dame cache, along with a few rings.

  2. Sam Lynagh says:

    Todd, as you know,I worked with Cookie for 2 years near the end of his life. It was an incredible experience and he was certainly one of the greatest athletes ever born here in America. Unfortunately he burned so many bridges that people do not know his story. He actually lived in Philly not far from me for 10 or 15 years and no one even knew him. He belongs in the Hall at Canton for all he did,including the All-Star game boycott,that forced the AFL to relocate from New Orleans. A pricipled,proud man whose story should be told.

    • You might already know this, but Jeff Miller wrote an excellent account of the All-Star game boycott in his book on the AFL, Going Long.

      Miller contacted Cookie (among dozens of players) for an interview, and Gilchrist responded that everything anybody needed to know about him was on his website.

  3. Buffalo Bob says:

    The Hall should be ashamed for not having his name in there already….Ralph Wilson ought to be ashamed his name is there and Cookie’s is not- Ralph despised this ” principled proud man ” that he has denied his name into the Bills wall of fame for years…shame shame on you Ralph- players like him and a few others made you what you are today…. for God’s sake man- right your wrongs for him and Lou Saban before you go to the big end zone in the sky- You better hope Cookies not waiting for you at the gate! Buffalo Bob

    • earl edwards says:

      It’s really shameful when powerful men like Ralph Wilson (owner of the Buffalo Bills) who have everything they could ever want in life, sit in judgement of situations like this one. Before attempting to judge his off-the field situations as bad character, everyone should take a look at how difficult the time was for black men in America, and how Cookie, Jim Brown, Ali and Jack Johnson dealt with the pressures that surrounded them. They were men who refused to accept second hand treatment from men who hid behind the tag of authority trying to keep them in their place. These men were all a special breed that refused to be broken by a very prejudice system…..

      • Tom says:

        Cookie was voted into the CFL Hall Of Fame and is the only one to turn down induction, citing rascism and exploition by the owners.

        Knowing that he played with both Jackie Kemp and Ronnie Knox adds to the magic of the man, unlike Jim Brown who got to where he was in the sport by more conventional means, I looked at Cookie, Jackie and Ronnie in a mythical sort of way as they defied convention and did it their way.

  4. Mark Smythe says:

    Wouldn’t a backfield of Cookie Gilchrist and Jim Brown have driven defenses crazy. Bring in Gale Sayers in the slot with Bullet Bob Hayes and Lance Alworth alternating at Wide receiver. What defense could have stopped that offense?

  5. Jon E. Crocker says:

    There is an awesome book written about Cookies life (The Cookie That Didn’t Crumble). There is also a petition to sign to have Cookie and the great Coach Saban placed on the Wall OF Fame at Wilson Stadium.http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/cookie-saban/ I saw Cookie play when I was a boy of only 10 years old. My Dad took me to see the playoff game between The Bills and The Boston Patriots in 1963 and I have been a Bills fan ever since. Cookie does indeed belong in both The Hall Of Fame and The Wall Of Fame in Buffalo.

  6. Cookie IS on the all-time All-AFL “second team”. For some reason, while considering a league in which every team had a starting fullback and a starting halfback, the writers from AFL cities who selected the All-time AFL team in 1970 picked two HALFbacks, Clem Daniels and Paul Lowe, to the first team. http://www.remembertheafl.com/AFLAllTimeTeam.htm

    On the second team, they picked Abner Haynes, a HALFback who for some reason they listed as a fullback, and Cookie, the ONLY true fullback on either team. In my book, that makes COOKIE the All-time All-AFL FULLBACK. http://www.remembertheafl.com/CookieGilchrist.htm

  7. I’ve commented on other articles that Cookie Gilchrist should be in The Hall of Fame. I knew about him in the late ’70’s, when I was a kid, because I had a friend who was a Bills fan. Gilchrist was one of the first AFL players I knew about, after George Blanda, Joe Namath, Emerson Boozer, Matt Snell, Len Dawson, Mike Garrett, and Otis Taylor.

    Those players on the Jets and Chiefs had an advantage in terms of publicity, because they played on the first two teams to defeat their NFL opponent in the Super Bowl. Blanda, of course, played from 1949 to 1975. It really is unfortunate that a lot of AFL players from the early-to-mid-’60’s don’t get the recognition they deserve.

    Many thanks to Tales from the American Football League for spotlighting these players. I’m the first to admit there a quite a few that I’m learning about for the first time.

  8. Yo Todd … I’d like to see a head-to-head comparison between Keith Lincoln and Paul Hornung …. I think Lincoln was the superior player, but Hornung had the advantage of being a Lombardi Packer ….

  9. Eddie Arminio says:

    Cookie Gilchrist was the AFL answer to Jimmy Brown. The NFL is too pompous and arrogant to acknowledge his greatness,He definitely belongs in the Hall OF Fame.

  10. david exum says:

    Being a relative of his I enjoy reading peoples comments about my late cousin and what a great player he was. Makes me proud to not only be his cousin but proud to have gotten to know him as a person.

    • Tom says:

      David, can you tell me if former UNLV running back Mack Gilchrist is in any way related to Cookie? When I played against Mack Gilchrist in 1971 I was told he was Cookie’s brother. Years later I was told by a man who grew up with Cookie in Pensylvania, that Cookie didn’t have a brother.

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