Philadelphia Eagles News

'You never know what people really feel about you until you get into situations like this'

On any given day at the NovaCare Complex, you can find Harold Carmichael walking around just like any other employee of the Eagles.

You may find him hanging out with current Eagles players. You may find him hanging out with past greats like Mike Quick or Ike Reese. You may even find him sitting down in the cafeteria with various employees discussing his love of the classic television show Gunsmoke.

Despite towering over everyone in the building with his 6-foot-8 frame, Harold manages to blend right in with everyone else, so much so that you can almost forget his significance to the organization.

Harold is the Eagles' all-time leader in receptions (589), receiving yards (5,879), and receiving touchdowns (79). He has held those records for almost 40 years.

From 1971-83, he led the NFL in receptions and retired tied with the fifth-most in league history. Even in retirement, he has been involved with the team in player development and as an ambassador.

However, his latest accomplishment is his most noteworthy, as he has been selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest to ever play the game. His legacy will now be guarded and remembered forever in Canton, Ohio.

But, on any given day at the NovaCare Complex, he's just Harold, and that humility is what endears him to anyone that comes into contact with him.

It was no surprise that a day after Harold's election had been made official, the entire Eagles organization happily greeted him in the main lobby of the NovaCare Complex to congratulate him on finally receiving the honor.

Harold, not knowing he was going to receive such a grand entrance, was taken aback by the gesture, and was quickly overcome with emotion.

"Why y'all do this?" he joked with tears in his eyes.

After wiping the tears from his eyes and expressing his gratitude, Harold made his way through a crowd of Eagles employees waiting to greet him with handshakes and hugs. Harold took his time and soaked in the moment.

"You never know what people really feel about you until you get into situations like this and that was very touching for me," he later said.

The moment was a long time coming for the Jacksonville, Florida native, who, despite being the most productive receiver of the 1970s, was passed over year after year for the most prestigious individual honor in professional football. The long wait helped Harold learn that he was more patient than he initially thought.

"I wanted this, but I always wondered if I was good enough to be there," he said.

Unfortunately for Harold, that decision was beyond his control. All he could do was wait for the call. But one thing he has always prided himself on was being ready when called upon.

Harold was ready when the Philadelphia Eagles called in 1971 after they selected him with the 161st overall pick in the NFL Draft out of Southern University. Harold did not expect to slip all the way to the seventh round, but quickly made his way up to his new home.

Harold was ready when he received the call before the 1973 season that the team had traded fellow wideout Harold Jackson to the Los Angeles Rams and was promoting him to a starting position. He proved his readiness by leading the league in receptions (67), yards (1,116), and finishing fourth in receiving touchdowns (9).

And Harold was also ready when David Baker, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, called him to deliver the news that he was finally receiving a gold jacket. Or so he thought.

The sound of Baker's voice sent Harold into a dreamlike state and the euphoria of the moment gave him the urge to spread the word quickly, but Baker kindly asked him to keep it a secret until Wednesday's official announcement. Harold managed to keep the secret from the masses, but made sure to tell his wife, Beatrice.

Harold Carmichael received a hero's welcome from Eagles employees at the NovaCare Complex.

Even after Harold's election became public, it was still a dream – the dream of a child that started from humble beginnings, that was overlooked by pro scouts coming out of a historically black school, and was overlooked by Hall of Fame voters for decades.

That dream is now a reality.

Things will change for Harold moving forward. People will now refer to him as "Pro Football Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael." His career will now be remembered with the reverence it deserves.

But at the NovaCare Complex, he will still be Harold, blending right in with everyone else.

"I still have to be myself," he said. "I've been blessed with the gift that God has given me and I can't change myself."

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