Carlton “Cookie” Gilchrist,” the bruising fullback of the Buffalo Bills’ 1964 AFL championship team, will finally go on the Wall of Fame at New Era Field. The team announced that a ceremony will take place when the Bills host the Oakland Raiders on October 29.
In 1971, Gilchrist became the first player inducted into the Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame. This was later renamed to the Wall of Fame, yet Gilchrist’s name remained absent from the Wall. Our own Matt Warren wrote about Gilchrist’s accomplishments back in 2011. Many have speculated that disagreements between Gilchrist and Ralph C. Wilson, the Bills’ late owner, were to blame for Gilchrist’s exclusion from the Wall. Jerry Sullivan of The Buffalo News speculated in 2015 that Gilchrist and his coach, Lou Saban, may each be honored by the Bills posthumously since the team’s ownership transferred to Terry and Kim Pegula in 2014, and indeed Saban was added in 2015. Gilchrist will now join him.
Gilchrist passed away in 2011, and upon his death, he was found to have a severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, better known as CTE. Gilchrist’s hard running style and repeated blows to the head are likely the reason for the disease, and it also likely explains his reclusive nature in the latter half of his life.
Chris Garbarino, Gilchrist’s biographer, had this to say in a comment to Rumblings editor-in-chief Matt Warren:
I’m so happy that Cookie is now getting the recognition he deserves and will have his name memorialized with other Buffalo Bills greats. It will be beautiful for his children and grandchildren to see Cookie’s name right alongside other greats of the game. I hope this makes others that were unaware of what a great football player and man Cookie was to now want to know more about him. Having his name on the Wall of Fame I hope will spur on a whole new generation to learn about the best football player that some say ever touched a football, Cookie Gilchrist!
Gilchrist signed with Buffalo in 1962 after a 5-year stint in the Canadian Football League. At 6’3” and 250 lbs., he was an imposing figure. He made an immediate impact, as he rushed for 1,096 yards and 13 touchdowns that season, adding 319 yards and 2 touchdowns receiving, as well. He even kicked field goals and extra points for the Bills in 1962, making 8 of his 20 field goal attempts and 14 of his 17 extra point attempts. For his efforts, he was voted All-Pro, named to the Pro Bowl, and awarded the AFL Player of the Year Award. Gilchrist’s last game with the Bills may have been his best, as he rushed 16 times for 122 yards in the first of Buffalo’s back-to-back AFL Championship Game victories.
Congratulations to Cookie and his family on a well-deserved honor.