The AFL’s third season of play, 1962, was an interesting year for several reasons. It was the last year of the Dallas Texans and New York Titans, as those clubs would return in 1963, reincarnated as the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets. While the Houston Oilers returned to their third consecutive championship game, they faced the Texans, and not the Los Angeles or San Diego Chargers. Lastly, at the end of the season not one, but two players were chosen as the AFL’s Co-Most Valuable Players, and both earned the recognition in their first year in the league. Those players were the Dallas Texans quarterback, Len Dawson, and the Buffalo Bills running back, Cookie Gilchrist.
Originally drafted out of Purdue University by the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL, Len Dawson’s first five years in professional football were spent in back-up roles with the Steelers and Cleveland Browns. In fact, the future hall of famer threw just 35 passes over those five seasons. But Dawson left the Browns following the 1961 season, and settled into a new position as starting signal caller for the Dallas Texans of the American Football League.
In his first season in the AFL, Len Dawson completed 189 of 310 passes for 2,759 yards and 29 touchdowns. Dawson led the league in completion percentage (61%), touchdown passes (29) and yards-per-attempt (8.9). The Texans went 11-3 with Dawson at the helm, and defeated the Houston Oilers in the 1962 AFL Championship Game by a score of 20-17 in double-overtime. Among his postseason accolades, Len Dawson was chosen as the AFL’s Most Valuable Player by The Sporting News.
Carlton Chester “Cookie” Gilchrist was brand new to the AFL in 1962, but was a veteran of 11 seasons of professional football in Canada. At 6’2″ and 243 lbs., Gilchrist was a punishing runner whose speed and raw strength made him one of the most dominant backs the game had ever seen. He exploded onto the American scene in 1962, and became the AFL’s first 1,000-yard rusher.
Cookie ran for a league-leading 1,096 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1962, and caught 24 passes out of the backfield for an additional 319 yards and two touchdowns. He also kicked 14 extra points and eight field goals. Gilchrist lifted the lowly Buffalo Bills from a 6-8 record in 1961 to a 7-6-1 finish in ’62, and had them poised for runs at the Eastern Division championship for years to come. When postseason awards were announced, Cookie Gilchrist had been named the AFL’s Most Valuable Player by the United Press International and the Associated Press.