Cookie Gilchrist, a bruising fullback who as one of the American Football League's first star players helped lead the Buffalo Bills to a championship in 1964, has died. He was 75.
Gilchrist died Monday of cancer at an assisted living facility near Pittsburgh, his nephew, Thomas Gilchrist, told the Associated Press.
Gilchrist took stands against racism during his career and wasn't afraid to demand better contracts. In 1965, he was among a group of black players who boycotted the AFL All-Star Game in New Orleans after they weren't allowed into a bar and had difficulty catching taxicabs. The game was eventually moved to Houston.
Gilchrist, at 6 feet 3 and 251 pounds, was the AFL's player of the year in 1962, his first with the Bills. Gilchrist gained 1,096 yards rushing and scored 15 touchdowns, 13 of them rushing. His running style drew comparisons to former Cleveland Browns great Jim Brown.
"Cookie represented an almost revolutionary jump in running backs because of his combination of size and speed," former San Diego Chargers lineman Ron Mix told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2003.
In 1964, the Bills defeated the Chargers to win the first of two consecutive league championships. He was traded after the 1964 season and finished his career with Denver and Miami.
Gilchrist led the AFL in yards rushing from 1963 to '65 and in touchdowns from 1962 to '64.
Before joining the Bills, he spent six seasons in the Canadian Football League, where he is regarded as one of its top offensive and defensive players.
Carlton Chester Gilchrist was born May 25, 1935, in Brackenridge, Pa. Gilchrist was 18 when he was lured out of high school to sign a contract with the Cleveland Browns. But he never played for the Browns and became a star in the Canadian Football League. He led Hamilton to a Grey Cup victory in 1957.
Gilchrist is the only player to turn down induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, citing racism and exploitation by team management.
Gilchrist was a four-time AFL Pro Bowl selection. He and O.J. Simpson are the only two Bills players to score rushing touchdowns in seven consecutive games.
"The Bills were very lucky to have procured the services of Cookie Gilchrist, who was one of the greatest fullbacks I have ever seen in all of my years in professional football," Bills owner Ralph Wilson said Monday.
Gilchrist is survived by a daughter, two sons and two grandchildren.