Gold Jacket Spotlight: Harold Carmichael, King Of Contested Balls
While unable to earn a roster spot on his high school football team until his junior year, then ascending from walk-on at Southern University to being recognized as freshman of the year, Harold Carmichael ultimately was lauded as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Centennial Class of 2020.
The longtime Philadelphia Eagles receiver deemed the “King of the Contested Ball” by his Enshrinement presenter, Jim Solano, soars into the Gold Jacket Spotlight this week.
After graduation from football tradition-rich William M. Raines High School in Jacksonville, Fla., Harold arrived at Southern University and was a three-sport athlete for the Jaguars. In addition to football, he played basketball and threw the javelin and discus for the track and field team.
Harold credits his Southern University teammate, Mel Blount (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1989) as being “the one that got me ready for the National Football League.”
During an Eagles’ documentary, Blount offered, “(Harold) was different. He knew he was different. He knew that if the ball was anywhere in his zone, he was going to catch it.”
After Harold was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the seventh round of the 1971 NFL Draft, Blount said, “When Harold came out, I was tickled to death for him. I was rooting for him, pulling for him. Because I know what guys like us represent, coming from HBC schools. We have to continue to prove that we deserve to be there – that we can perform at that level – and keep the doors open for the guys that are coming after us.”
A member of the Eagles from 1971-1983, Harold was, “a ray of sunshine among dark clouds,” according to Solano, noting the team had only four winning seasons during Harold’s tenure.
Harold played 13 seasons in Philadelphia and one in Dallas. During his career, he caught 590 passes while accumulating 8,985 yards and 79 touchdowns.
Harold, at 6-foot-8, fellow wide out Don Zimmerman (6-foot-3) and tight end Charle Young (6-foot-4) were dubbed the “Fire High Gang” during the 1973 season after quarterback Roman Gabriel quipped, “All I have to do is fire high” while discussing passing to the tall trio of receivers.
In that 1973 season, Harold led the league in receptions (67) and receiving yards (1,116).
In 1979, Harold set a new record for most consecutive games with a pass reception, eventually extending it to 127 games.
“Harold’s style of play was tenacious,” added Solano. “Anytime there was a ball in the air that came his way, he felt that he had to go and get it … and he did.”
Named to the Pro Bowl on four occasions, Harold played in the Eagles’ initial Super Bowl appearance, Super Bowl XV after the 1980 season.
“Harold has never been given credit for being a great athlete. But I’ve never seen anyone as graceful as he was. There wasn’t a better key receiver in the game,” said former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski.
Harold’s efforts were recognized when he was selected as a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1970s.
Head coach Dick Vermeil (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022) guided the Eagles from 1976-1982 and remarked that Harold “was a real giver to people, an emotional guy whose sincerity and commitment I never questioned.”
Indeed, Harold was widely known for his care in the community and was acknowledged for those efforts when given the NFL Man of the Year Award (later named for Walter Payton) in 1980.
Upon Harold’s retirement announcement in 1985, former Eagles owner Leonard Tose described him as “an outstanding young man. He’ll succeed in whatever he does because of his sincerity and honesty. He’s a leader.”
In retirement, Harold worked in the travel, steel fabricating and sports marketing industries, and in 1998, was named the Eagles’ director of player and community relations. In 2014, Harold was named fan engagement liaison and later became an Eagles’ Ambassador.
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