In an era before the NFL draft had a six-month buildup to a three-day television mini-series, Gail Cogdill would have been considered a sleeper – with a question of why the Detroit Lions would take a wide receiver in the sixth round out of Washington State.
By the end of his rookie season, Cogdill would have been considered a draft-day steal – and questions would have been asked of the other 12 teams in what was then a 13-team league why they passed on him for five rounds.
It was a different time in pro football when Cogdill was a rookie with the Lions in 1960, with a different style of play and no chatter on anti-social media. But then as now, good players got noticed in a hurry.
Cogdill, who died Thursday at his home in Spokane, made an impression as a rookie that would stamp him as one of the all-time great receivers in Detroit Lions history. Cogdill was 79 and had been in failing health of late.
In a 12-game rookie season, Cogdill had 43 receptions for 642 yards, one touchdown and a 14.9-yard average per catch. He made the Pro Bowl, something he would do three times in his career as a Lion.
At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, and blessed with speed and great hands, Cogdill was the prototype receiver for any era – and any style of play.
He played 11 NFL seasons. After eight full seasons with the Lions, Cogdill was released by the Lions during the 1968 season. He finished that season with Baltimore and played his last two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and retired after the 1970 season.
His best seasons were with the Lions. As a Lion he had 325 catches for 5,221 yards, both franchise records at the time, 28 touchdowns and an average of 16.1 yards per catch. His career stats, including his time with Baltimore and Atlanta, were 356 catches, 5,696 yards, 34 TDs and 16.0 yards per catch.
Cogdill's 1962 and '63 seasons were spectacular. In 1962 he had 53 catches for 991 yards – both career highs – seven touchdowns and 18.7 yards per catch. The next year he came back to catch 48 passes for 945 yards and 10 TDs -- his single-season high – and 19.7 yards per catch, another career high.
In addition to making the Pro Bowl three times, he was voted first-team All-Pro by the Sporting News once and second-team All-Pro twice by the Associated Press.
Cogdill is survived by his wife Dian and their children Austin and Gary, and three children from a previous marriage -- Kristen, (Mike Dunlap) Eric, and Caroline. He also has a granddaughter and two great grandsons.
Cogdill's brain and brain stem are being donated to Boston University for concussion study.
The memorial service will take place on November 15th at 1PM at Heritage Funeral Home in Spokane. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, 8770 W. Bryn Mawr Ste. 1300 Chicago, IL, 60631, or The Providence Child Center, 830 NE 47th Avenue Portland, OR, 97213.