The NFL has transformed since Gail Cogdill caught passes for the Lions


Gail Cogdill (#89) was the best receiver the Lions had ever had when he came on the scene in the 1960s.

Passing records are being shattered left and right. In Detroit, Matthew Stafford is closing in on 28,000 career passing yards and has 177 touchdown passes. That puts him 12,000 passing yards and 59 touchdowns ahead of Lions legend Bobby Layne — and Stafford has played just two more games than Layne did.

The same is true on the receiving end. Calvin Johnson holds the Detroit Lions record with 11,619 receiving yards and 83 touchdowns. That leads a trio of former Lions receivers from the 1990s: Herman Moore (9,174 yards and 62 TDs), Johnnie Morton (6,499 yards and 35 TDs) and Brett Perriman (5.244 yards and 25 TDs).

But before the Lions had a balanced receiving attack in the 1990s, the leading receiver in franchise history was Gail Cogdill.

Cogdill held the Detroit career receiving record at 5,221 yards until Moore broke it. Cogdill died on Thursday in Spokane, Washington, after suffering from organ failure and dementia.

According to The Associated Press, Cogdill’s family said his brain and brain stem are being donated to researchers at Boston University who study brain trauma.

I’ll be honest, I had heard Cogdill’s name before, but didn’t know anything else about him except that he played for the Lions until this week when he died at age 79.

It is a shame that a generation of Lions fans don’t know this receiving pioneer.

In 1960, Cogdill was a rookie and had one of the best years of his career. He caught 43 passes for 642 yards and scored a touchdown. He was named the NFL Rookie of the Year and was selected to his first of three Pro Bowls.

Cogdill played nine of his 11 seasons with the Lions. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 1962 and 1963. He was an All-NFL and All-Conference selection in 1962 and 1963, also earning All-NFL second-team honors in 1964.

From 1961-1963, he had three consecutive seasons of more than 900 yards receiving.

After his one touchdown as a rookie, he scored six, seven and then 10 in 1963.

Cogdill played a half a season with Baltimore in 1968 and finished his career with two seasons in Atlanta, retiring after the 1970 season with 34 career touchdowns.

But sadly this is new information for most Lions fans.

Cogdill is largely forgotten because he is not in the Hall of Fame, and for Lions fans, he is an older generation of player but also not a part of the NFL champion Lions teams led by Layne in the 1950s.

But that doesn’t take away how great of a receiver he was and his place in Lions history.

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