College Days: Harry Carson

College Days: Harry Carson

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Each week throughout the 2013 season, recaps the college days of a pro football legend.

Harry Carson
Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2006

Linebacker Harry Carson was the leader in the middle of the New York Giants defense for 13 seasons from 1976 to 1988. Not many people could have predicted, however, that the ferocious run-stopper would become a Hall of Fame defender coming out of high school.

At McClenaghan High School in Florence, S.C., Carson played on both sides of the ball but primarily focused his attention on being a running back. Once Carson arrived on the campus of South Carolina State, the coaches were immediately impressed with his quickness and stationed him at defensive end.

Harry is one of three Hall of Famers to play at South Carolina State. The others are Deacon Jones and Marion Motley.
He was an instant hit. Carson played all four years and never missed a game with the Bulldogs. He also quickly became one of the team’s defensive leaders. As a sophomore he racked up a team-high 92 tackles to help guide the team to a 7-3-1 record and an appearance in Orange Blossom Classic.

The next two seasons Carson was named the Mid-East Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and led South Carolina State to back-to-back conference championships. In 1974 the Bulldogs posted an 8-4 record and an appearred in the Pelican Bowl.

In 1975 the Bulldogs had an 8-2-1 record and recorded six shutouts to set an NCAA record for fewest points (29) allowed in a 10-game season. Carson’s stats that year indicate he played a huge role in the historic effort. He was credited with 114 solo tackles, 41 assists and a staggering 30 quarterback sacks.

By now Carson had reached legendary status on campus.

“One of the best players I’ve ever coached,” commented South Carolina State head coach Willie Jefferies. Strong words coming from a man who had coached Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea and Pittsburgh Steelers’ legend Donnie Shell.

Pro teams had obviously noticed Carson as well, but most were miffed as to what position the 6-2, 235 All-American would play. The Steelers envisioned him as part of their “Steel Curtain” defense as a defensive end. The Dallas Cowboys believed that tight end would be his best fit while the Atlanta Falcons eyed him as a guard.

“Most teams told me I’d be an outside linebacker,” Carson once said. “So when the Giants drafted me and told me I’d be playing the middle, I wasn’t quite ready for it.”

After the Giants selected Carson in the fourth round of the 1976 draft, they introduced him to the team’s linebacker coach Marty Schottenheimer who quickly went to work to get Carson ready to play the position. By mid-season, the young middle linebacker was the starter. Carson ended the season with 69 tackles, 50 assists, two sacks and an All-Rookie selection.

More success followed as he would go on to earn nine Pro Bowl appearances, was named first- or second-team All-Pro six times and first- or second-team All-NFC six times.

Harry’s HOF Bio>>>
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