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Inside the process to elect Harold Carmichael into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Twenty-four members of the Centennial Slate Blue-Ribbon Panel – comprised of Pro Football Hall of Fame voters, Hall of Famers, coaches, executives, and historians – returned from lunch last Wednesday afternoon at the Hall in Canton, Ohio to resume presentations to select the special 15-member group that will complement the five modern-era Hall of Famers in a special Class of 2020 to commemorate the celebration of the NFL's 100th season.

ESPN's Sal Paolantonio nominated Eagles legend Harold Carmichael back in the summer and volunteered to make a case for the wide receiver.

"I've known Harold's career for years. I've known him for years. I felt passionately that he deserved to be in the Hall of Fame and I didn't want to leave it to anybody else," said Paolantonio, a member of the Centennial Slate Blue-Ribbon Panel.

The campaign started with letters from Paolantonio, Eagles Hall of Fame head coach Dick Vermeil, and Eagles Hall of Fame quarterback Ron Jaworski to members of the Centennial Slate Blue-Ribbon Panel during the fall. Through a series of five conference calls with the voters, Carmichael's name survived the initial cut from 209 players to 20 finalists.

Paolantonio thought that it initially would be a long shot for Carmichael to get into the Hall because his career was largely ignored for 25 years. Once Carmichael was named a finalist, Paolantonio knew he had to do something extra special.

First, he enlisted the help of NFL Films to produce a 45-second highlight video.

Second, John Gonoude from the Eagles' media relations department crafted a brilliant fact sheet listing all of Carmichael's rankings and accomplishments.

Since the 12-hour day featured 10 hours of deliberations, the presentations were limited to just four minutes. Paolantonio had not much longer than a commercial break during an NFL game to shine a spotlight on Carmichael, who hasn't played a snap for the Eagles since 1983, yet still holds every franchise receiving record despite the proliferation of the passing game in today's NFL.

Paolantonio passed out Gonoude's stat sheet and went to work.

"I'm in the TV business," Paolantonio said. "I'm all about props. I'm a show-and-tell guy."

None of the other presentations that day included a highlight film. After the 240 seconds were up, Paolantonio thought two things were in Carmichael's favor. One, the fact that Carmichael was fifth in NFL history in receptions at the time of his retirement and the four players ahead of him were all in the Hall of Fame. The other is that the coaches and executives who were on the panel – Bill Belichick, Dick LeBeau, John Madden (who was not at the meeting, but listened by telephone), and Ron Wolf – truly understood the magnitude of Carmichael's career.

When Paolantonio left Canton, however, he did not know the results of the final vote. The Hall of Fame notified Paolantonio at around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning that the presentation was indeed a success.

Harold Carmichael is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"This is a great day for Harold. It's a great day for the history of the Philadelphia Eagles," Paolantonio said. "Harold Carmichael was a Man of the Year. Harold Carmichael set all kinds of records. Harold Carmichael is a great gentleman of the game. He stands for the kind of excellence that you want in professional athletes, professional football players.

"Harold treats everyone the same and that's with ultimate respect and patience. This is a pillar of our community and he deserves to be celebrated. And the team deserves to be celebrated for having him around the team for the better part of a generation."

Paolantonio spoke with Carmichael shortly before the new member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame joined Good Morning Football on Wednesday.

"It means a lot to me. I'm very emotional about it right now to tell you the truth," Paolantonio said. "It's the 100-year anniversary of the NFL. This is my 25th year at ESPN covering the Eagles. The Eagles just won the Super Bowl (two years ago). The Eagles have been a huge part of the 100-year history of the NFL. I feel honored and proud to represent this great man.

"I'm super happy that Harold made it into this specific Centennial Class. That's pretty cool. It is well worth the wait. When you look at the names on that list, you realize the level of excellence and competition involved."

The Centennial Slate represents the first time that a group of enshrinees was selected during a meeting held at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Pro Football Hall of Fame voters will choose the modern-era members of the Class of 2020 on the eve of Super Bowl LIV in Miami. Carmichael is scheduled to join the other members of the Centennial Slate for the reveal.

Take a look at the best photos from Harold Carmichael's Hall-of-Fame career.

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