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Harold Carmichael: Larger Than Life On And Off The Field

Posted Feb 23, 2018

Two Hall of Fames down. One to go.

Harold Carmichael’s stellar achievements on the field as a wide receiver were recognized earlier this month when he was inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2018 in Atlanta.

“It’s a great honor to be inducted, a great honor,” says Carmichael, who caught 86 passes for 16 touchdowns while playing at Southern University from 1967 to 1970. “A couple of guys that I played with, they always told me about (the Black College Football Hall of Fame). This is one of my accolades that I’ve earned so far that’s really exciting for me.”

Carmichael was excited to be chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles during the 1971 NFL Draft, as well.

“The Eagles were one of the teams I was hoping to be drafted by,” says Carmichael, who was selected in the seventh round, 161st overall. “I wanted to look at the history of the Eagles at the time I was going to get drafted and the Eagles weren’t doing very well. Unlike guys today, they want to go to a team that’s already put together and about to go to the Super Bowl. I wanted to be on a team that I could help build to be able to go to the Super Bowl.”

However, at 6-8, Carmichael was literally and figuratively a long shot to make the team. During his first two seasons as a backup wide receiver and tight end, he totaled 40 receptions for 564 yards and two touchdowns. Becoming a full-time starter in 1973, Carmichael led the NFL with 67 receptions and 1,116 receiving yards. He scored nine touchdowns and was selected to the first of four Pro Bowls.

Over a 13-year career with the Eagles from 1971 to 1983, Carmichael led the team in receptions eight times and worked diligently to help Philadelphia reach the playoffs in four consecutive seasons from 1978-81. He was part of the team that won the 1980 NFC Championship and played in Super Bowl XV. That same season, he was bestowed with the NFL’s Man of the Year Award which has since been renamed after the late Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton.

He remains the team’s all-time career leader with 589 receptions for 8,978 yards and 79 touchdowns.

“Philadelphia can be a tough place to play, but you have to understand that the fans just want to see players do the right thing,” Carmichael says. “I didn’t understand fans at the beginning. They didn’t know me. They didn’t know that I was trying my hardest. It made me put too much pressure on myself to make big plays and to help turn the team around. I heard the boos. They hurt. It took some time to understand what it all meant. You can’t do it all by yourself, and once I did that, and just focused on my job, I played a lot better and the boos went away.

“I wanted to be good. I wanted to be respected on the football field. I put a lot of work into improving my game.”

A member of the 1970’s NFL All-Decade Team, a strong case can be made that Carmichael deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. However, his accomplishments are unfortunately not remembered as vividly because he played in a different era prior to rule changes that helped aid passing statistics. His best chance to be inducted someday will be as a Seniors Committee candidate.

Nevertheless, Carmichael and the Eagles are synonymous. A member of the team’s Hall of Fame, he returned to the Eagles as their director of player development and alumni in 1998. He coordinated life-skill programs for players, including financial education, family assistance, internships, and continuing education until 2015. He remains as an ambassador for the team.

“The Eagles have been great to me pretty much since 1971,” says Carmichael. “They gave me an opportunity after playing there to come back and be a part of the organization for 17 more years. That was very exciting for me and something that I’ll always feel grateful to the Eagles for giving me that opportunity.”

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