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Sports Then and Now



Gilchrist was One Tough Cookie 2

Posted on January 13, 2011 by Dean Hybl

At 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, Cookie Gilchrist was bigger than most defensive players of his era.

Unless you are a long-time follower of the Buffalo Bills or a fan of the old AFL, you probably aren’t familiar with the name of Cookie Gilchrist. However, Gilchrist, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 75, was one of the early stars of the AFL and one of the few football greats never to play in college.

Though signing high school players was against NFL rules, Cleveland Browns Coach Paul Brown was given a special exemption by Commissioner Bert Bell to give Gilchrist a tryout following his senior year at Har-Brack High School in Pennsylvania.

Gilchrist left during training camp when he was not guaranteed a roster position. Had he ended up with the Browns, he might have eventually been paired with Jim Brown and perhaps formed one of the most devastating backfields in football history.

Instead, Gilchrist spent two years in the Ontario Rugby Football Union before moving to the Canadian Football League in 1956.

Gilchrist played for three different teams during six seasons in the CFL, but at each stop he was a standout and key performer. He was a five-time All-Star as a fullback and in 1958 rushed for 1,254 yards. He also played defense and was an All-Star linebacker in 1960.

During his CFL career, Gilchrist rushed for 4,911 yards, caught passes for 1,068 yards and intercepted 12 passes.

He joined the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League for the third season of the league in 1962 and the 6-foot-3, 250 pound fullback immediately became one of the top stars in the league.

Larger than most of the defensive players who were trying to tackle him, in 1962 Gilchrist became the first player in AFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards as he gained 1,096 yards with 13 rushing touchdowns. He also kicked for the Bills that season and finished second in the league with 128 points. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Larry “The Zonk” Csonka
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      Larry Csonka

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the leader of a running attack that was the cornerstone of two Super Bowl Championship teams, including the only undefeated squad in NFL history.

      With his distinctive headgear and a body suited for punishing contact, Larry Csonka looked the part of a fullback and for 11 NFL seasons delivered and took regular punishment on his way to the Hall of Fame.

      Following in the great tradition of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little, Csonka earned All-American honors at Syracuse while rushing for 2,934 yards.  He began earning a name for himself as the Most Valuable Player of the East–West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, and the College All-Star Game.

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