Cookie Gilchrist – AFL Entrepreneur

The more that I learn about him, the more I become fascinated with Cookie Gilchrist.  There was just so much life packed into his 70+ years.  Not all good, and not all bad, Cookie seemingly lived life at a pace that far outstrips the majority of people.  It is so unfortunate that CTE began to rob him of his mental faculties in the 1970s, some 40 years before his death.  There is no telling what the man may have accomplished.

autographed 1964 topps cookie gilchrist

#029 – Cookie Gilchrist

In this piece, guest blogger, Dave Steidel, takes a look at Cookie’s off-the-field business ventures.  As would be expected from Cookie Gilchrist, some of them make you shake your head and just say, “Wow!” 

Oh, and as an AFL fan and collector, I would LOVE to own a pair of Cookie Gilchrist Signature Ear Muffs.  I wonder what happened to all of them?

From high school to the Cleveland Browns, Canadian Football League, Buffalo, Denver and Miami, Carlton Chester Gilchrist was a force in football and the entrepreneurial world.  Once described as a mixture of Horatio Alger, Abercrombie & Fitch, Peck’s Bad Boy, Huckleberry Finn, the Lone Ranger and Captain Marvel, Cookie may also have been the first professional athlete to conger up his own form of Twitter light years ahead of its time.

At one time or another Gilchrist had sought to invest in a sporting goods store called “Cookie’s Closet, become a public relations specialist and a mining prospector in northern Ontario.  He was so excited about the latter that he hired an Indian guide, rented a helicopter and flew over the lake where a large body of copper ore was discovered, dropped on pontoons into the water and staked his claim.  He also tried to get Bills owner, Ralph Wilson to invest in 20,000 pairs of autographed Cookie Gilchrist earmuffs to sell at the 1964 AFL championship game.  Wilson declined the offer.  It was also reported that Cookie sold Christmas trees outside of the Bills War Memorial Stadium.

Traded after the 1964 season to Denver, Gilchrist asked the Broncos to let him have a telephone in his room at training camp so he could stay in touch with his many business endeavors.  His request was refused, so Cookie had a phone installed in his car and hooked into his horn under the hood.  He then parked his car under his dorm room window.  Players claim they heard Cookie jump out of bed at all hours of the night and then run outside to answer the horn.

While making his mark on pro-football as the AFL’s best fullback, Cookie also proved that he had a wide range of business talent as well as being a man with a vision.

Todd Tobias (790 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.


9 Responses to Cookie Gilchrist – AFL Entrepreneur

  1. chris burford says:

    No doubt, Cookie was “one of a kind” . He could be convivial, surly, funny, and dead serious all within a matter of minutes. A great player and very complex guy. Liked him very much. Was truly a game changer on the field and off.

  2. TK says:

    Ralph Kramden in cleats!….

  3. billd says:

    AFL folklore has it that during the summer of 1967, Cookie was very instrumental in the Denver Bronco’s two victories over Detroit and Minnesota in the first AFL vs NFL exhibitions. A couple of years past his prime, Cookie was still effective against opponents, both as a blocker and runner. Alex Karras became so frustrated with Cookie and guard Pat Matson that he was ejected. And when the Broncos played the Vikings, Cookie dominated rookie Alan Page with his blocking and running. Page was playing his college position of DE. After Alan’s experience with Cookie, the Vikings moved Page inside to DT, where he enjoyed a HOF career.

  4. Tom says:

    The 1967 Broncos also beat the Raiders in their last pre season game 21-17 and two weeks later in the regular season lost to the Silver n Black 51-0.
    According to former Tabby Teammate Angelo Mosca, Mosca said that Cookie was always cooking up deals, in Hamilton Ont he opened a restaurant with hopes of turning it into a chain of restaurants, the name of Cookies restaurant was ” Uncle Toms Cabin”.
    Cookie was a two way player he played 60 minutes his entire CFL career from 1954-61. He rushed for about 8000 yards, played linebacker on D and intercepted 12 passes.

  5. As I learn more about Gilchrist, I am more and more amazed. Thanks for these posts about Cookie. They’ve been great ! ! !

  6. Brandon Rose says:

    Cookie was certainly one of a kind. Many years ago I heard an interview with him where he talked about declining induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He also told a fabulous story about his precious Cadillac with the front vanity plate, “Lookie Lookie Here Comes Cookie.” He may have been one of pro football’s all-time greats on the field and definitely off the field. Long live his legend.

  7. Melanie Gilchrist says:

    I was fortunate enough to hear many stories and hold many discussion with this “tough Cookie”, he never told me about the phone story, very amusing – I believe it though. Miss him!

  8. Islandon22 says:

    Growing up in Ontario, near Buffalo, I remember Cookie as a Argonauts and a Bill, watched him play as a Bill live. Boy was he a load for any defender!!!

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