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.
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?