CFL Football Player
Current fiscal conditions obscure the glorious past of the Buffalo Public Schools in the field of athletics. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Buffalo Schools churned out dominant teams and dominant athletes, none more dominant than Bennett High’s Don Gilbert.
A three-sport terror, Gilbert lettered in baseball, basketball and football for four years at Bennett, and accomplished the never-duplicated feat of All-High seasons in all three sports in his junior and senior years. The Tigers followed Don’s path to glory, as their playmaking guard and standout quarterback paced them to Yale Cup basketball titles and Harvard Cup football championships his last two years at Bennett. Gilbert was the Thom McAn recipient as the Most Valuable Player in Buffalo Public Schools Football in 1960, and also won the coveted Courier-Express Billy Kelly Award as the outstanding scholar-athlete of the Buffalo Public Schools that year.
Don had his pick of college football scholarship offers, and chose Boston University. The call of his hometown was loud, and Gilbert returned home and enrolled at the University at Buffalo in 1961. Once again, Gilbert lettered in three sports, but football was clearly his passion. After sharing quarterbacking duties with future NFLer John Stofa in his junior year, Gilbert blossomed his senior year for Coach Dick Offenhamer’s Bulls. He set a school record for total yardage (rushing and passing) that season, and was 19th in the nation in total offensive yards. These accomplishments earned Don the 1964 Dom Grassi Award as UB’s Athlete of the Year.
After graduation, Gilbert headed north for a taste of Canadian football, and starred as a defensive back for the Ottawa Roughriders from 1965-67. His 83-yard return of an intercepted pass for a touchdown was the longest return in CFL history, and his outstanding defensive ability brought him All-CFL honors. In that second CFL campaign, Don also led his team to a berth in the Grey Cup final.
Although his body had the inherent limits imposed by age, his mind did not, and Don later was a highly successful coach at the University of Ottawa. His team won 40 of 50 contests, and captured the Canadian National Championship in 1975 as Don won Canadian College Coach of the Year honors.
Don Gilbert has been a high-achiever at every step on his journey, and has been so recognized with memberships in the Bennett High Hall of Fame, UB Hall of Fame and University of Ottawa Hall of Fame. Don’s induction into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame is a fitting culmination to a career rich in athletic achievement.