Induction Year: 1989
It started in October, 1972, with a 21-yard catch in a shutout loss to the Washington Redskins.
It ended on Dec. 21, 1980, with the sweetest eight-point loss of Harold Carmichael’s football career.
Between those milestones, Carmichael caught passes in 127 consecutive National Football League games erasing a record of 105 set by Danny Abramowicz of the New Orleans Saints.
The record has been broken by Steve Largent and Ozzie Newsome, but it still is a remarkable achievement for a kid who grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., catching pine cones and socks filled with mud or beer cans.
A cheap shot by Dennis Thurman sidelined Carmichael for half of the 35-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys that snapped the streak, but he took it in stride. The most important thing about that game was that it wrapped up the Eagles’ first division title in 31 years.
According to tie-breaker rules, the Cowboys had to win that game by 25 points to claim the title. They had a 25-point lead with 10 minutes remaining in the game, but Dick Vermeil’s Eagles scored 17 points in the last 10 minutes to wrap up the championship.
Although he literally stood head and shoulders above other players (at 6 feet, 8 inches), the soft-spoken Carmichael maintained a low profile throughout his career. After the Dallas game, he said he didn’t hold a grudge against Thurman.
It could’ve gone either way, he said of the sideline shot that put him out of the game. The guy was just trying to make a play. The hit didn’t bother meit was the landing that hurt.
I felt kinda bad about the streak ending, but what really put a lid on that was winning the division championship. That’s what it’s all about.
The Eagles then beat the Vikings and Cowboys in the playoffs, winning a berth in Super Bowl XV at the Louisiana Superdome.
Carmichael’s height and enormous reach gave him a distinct advantage over shorter defensive backs. I only know one guy who can cover him, said 5-9 Washington Redskins cornerback Pat Fischer, and that’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Carmichael learned to play with pain at an early age. He played the clarinet in the band at William M. Raines High in Jacksonville, Fla., and the band director stood beside him. Every time Carmichael hit a sour note, the director rapped him on the head with his baton.
He switched from music to athletics, playing quarterback on the high school football team and excelling in both football and basketball at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. He also threw the javelin and discus for the Jaguars’ track and field team.
The Philadelphia Eagles picked him in the seventh round of the 1971 draft, but had a hard time deciding what to do with him. They shuttled him between wide receiver and tight end for a couple of years, but Carmichael obviously wasn’t cut out for the rigors of the tight end position. An injury sidelined him for the last five games of his rookie season, and he had another knee injury the next year.
Before he started the streak with the catch against the Redskins, he had only one reception in his previous eight gamesa four-yarder against the Cowboys.
Then general manager Pete Retzlaff, head coach Ed Khayat and his entire staff were fired and Mike McCormack became the Eagles’ fourth head coach in six years.
He got Roman Gabriel from the Los Angeles Rams to handle the quarterbacking, and hired Boyd Dowler to coach the Eagles’ receivers.
Dowler smoothed out Carmichael’s stride, and improved his footwork. H also gave him a permanent position at wide receiver. Carmichael’s career blasted into orbit. He led the NFL in receiving with 67 receptions for 1,116 yards in the 1973 season. I was the first of seven seasons in which he caught at least one pass in each game.
He was tall, but that wasn’t all. Carmichael once won a bet by throwing a football from one end zone to the other. He was timed at 4.6 seconds for 40 yards, and caught punts one-handed in practice.
Carmichael was the NFL Man of the Year in 1980, and was selected to play in Pro Bowls in 1974, 1979, 1980 and 1981. He was a Sporting News All-Pro in 1978 and 1979, and played a key role in the Eagles’ march to the Super Bowl in 1981.
He caught more than 40 passes in nine consecutive seasons, and had more than 1,000 yards receiving in three of them. But the highlight of his career was a game in which he had only one seven-yard reception. That was the Eagles’ 20-7 victory over their old nemesis, the Dallas Cowboys, in the National conference championship game at Philadelphia on Jan. 11, 1981.
Carmichael had five catches for 83 yards in Super Bowl XV at the Louisiana Superdome, but the Oakland Raiders scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and rolled to a decisive 27-10 victory over the Eagles.
The following year, at the age of 31, Carmichael had one of his best seasons with 61 receptions for 1,028 yards and six touchdowns.
Ironically, he finished his career in 1984 wit the Dallas Cowboys. But he caught only one pass that season, and the Cowboys’ chances for a tenth consecutive playoff appearance went down the drain when they lost their last two games to the Redskins and Dolphins.
Carmichael set Eagles records with 589 receptions, 79 of them for touchdowns, for 8,978 yards. When he retired after the 1984 season, he was one of the top 10 receivers in NFL history.