The tears have dried. Harold Carmichael has had so many of them since he found out that he would be heading to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the special Centennial Class celebrating the NFL’s 100th season, a honor he’s been hoping for, praying for, since his career ended in 1984.
“I’ve been crying like a baby,” Carmichael said. “This is the ultimate honor, the greatest of my life.”
If you’re old enough to remember Harold Carmichael, you know that he was a giant on the football field — a 6-foot-8 pass catcher who stood out like a giraffe. He was more than just height as he helped the Eagles go from an awful football team in the early 1970s to Super Bowl XV in the 1980 season. Carmichael, a seventh-round draft pick in ’71, still holds Eagles franchise records with 589 receptions, 8,978 yards and 79 touchdowns. Even after all these years and the inflated passing statistics, the records still stand and that’s a remarkable test of time.
At the time of his retirement from the NFL, Carmichael ranked fifth all time in total receptions and his 127 consecutive games with at least one reception was a league record. He seemed like a sure thing for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Yeah, 36 years later.
“It was tough waiting at times,” Carmichael said. “Frustrating. You learn that you can only control what you can control, and so I had to be patient and just keep hoping and praying. My day finally came, and I couldn’t be happier. It was well worth the wait. I’m blessed.”
Carmichael was voted into the Hall in mid-January and he’s still waiting to find out what it all means. He spent time during the Super Bowl week in Miami signing autographs and posing for his Hall of Fame bust, so he had a taste of the life then. But, moving forward, the expectation is that Carmichael will spend a lot of time traveling and representing the league and the Hall of Fame at events around the world serving as an ambassador for the NFL.
“I’m going to have fun with this. That’s what it’s all about,” Carmichael said. “From the moment I made it to the NFL, I took it seriously and knew that I had to conduct myself at the highest standards. It was an honor to play in the NFL. This Hall of Fame is the cherry on the top. The game owed nothing to me. To know that now I’m going to be out there representing the NFL as a member of the Hall of Fame, that’s a dream come true and I’m going to treat it that way.”
Current Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is only 65 receptions away from passing Carmichael for all-time Eagles career catches, but the yardage and touchdown marks are still firmly in Carmichael’s grasp. His is a career that looks better and better the longer we are away from its time, because of the extraordinary longevity of his accomplishments.
“Somehow, people forgot about Harold,” former Eagles wide receiver and current radio analyst Mike Quick said. “Maybe it was because of all the bad teams he played for. The guy took a beating out there and never missed games and he was extremely productive. He was a dominating player. He deserves his due. And he deserves every bit of joy he gets out of it for the rest of his life.”
For Carmichael, then, the tears are all dried. It’s all smiles and sunshine from this point forward. ••