Top 3 Buffalo Bills who came over from the CFL
By Matt Karas
2. The Cookie Monster
Although his CFL career paled in comparison to that of Mr. Flutie, Carlton Chester “Cookie” Gilchrist holds a higher ranking on this list because of what he accomplished with the Bills.
Much like Flutie, Gilchrist also had a turbulent start to his football career in the United States. Despite not going to college, the fullback was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school in Pennsylvania and, as a result, was lured into signing a professional contract with the Cleveland Browns in 1953. The clandestine signing was against league rules and, as a result, the contract was eventually scrapped. It was at that point that Cookie decided to head north to seek greener pastures.
A multi-sport star in high school, Gilchrist decided to put football on the back burner and focus his attention on a rugby career. He joined the Sarnia Imperials of the Ontario Rugby Football Union in 1954 and spent two highly successful seasons in the league. It was in 1956 when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL persuaded Gilchrist into returning to the gridiron. The end result was a Grey Cup championship in his first season.
The really compelling aspect of Gilchrist’s six-year tenure in the CFL was the fact that he was not only a five-time all-star on offense, he was also voted as an all-star linebacker in 1960. Oh, did I mention that he also returned kicks and kicked field goals and extra points? Pretty talented fellow, I’d say! Cookie ended his CFL career in 1961 with the Argonauts, just like Flutie. He amassed an impressive 4,911 rushing yards, 1,068 receiving yards and 12 interceptions during his fruitful time in Canada.
Next stop: The Buffalo Bills of the (then) American Football League.
As was the case with Flutie, Gilchrist decided that Buffalo would be an ideal landing spot to resume his American football career. Also like Flutie, he was signed by the Bills in 1962 with the intention of simply being a backup plan. In an incredibly saddening turn of events, his highly accomplished competition, Ernie Davis, was diagnosed with leukemia that summer and died shortly thereafter at the tender age of 23.
Gilchrist proceeded to win the league’s rushing title with 1,096 yards and 13 touchdowns in his rookie campaign, which culminated in achieving AFL MVP honors. He would wrap up his third and final season with the Bills with yet another rushing title in 1964, which helped the Bills achieve their first AFL title by defeating the San Diego Chargers in the championship game.
He, like Flutie, became a fan favorite because of his entertaining style of play on the field. Unlike Flutie, Gilchrist was a physical specimen, coming in at a frightening 6-foot-3, 251 pounds. The sheer thought of attempting to tackle Gilchrist would assuredly send chills down the spines of prospective defensive targets to the level where he inherited his own customized them song based on Cleo Brown’s 1935 hit “(Lookie, Lookie, Lookie) Here Comes Cookie”.
Sadly, Gilchrist passed away on January 10, 2011 at the age of 75. In a classy maneuver by the Bills organization, Gilchrist’s name was added to the team’s “Wall of Fame” on October 29, 2017. He is widely regarded as one of the franchise’s greatest players ever.