Thirty-five years after he caught his last NFL pass, Harold Carmichael at long last is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The former Eagles wide receiver, who still holds the franchise record for receptions (590), receiving yards (8,985) and touchdown catches (79), is one of 10 senior players announced Wednesday morning as part of the Hall’s expanded 20-person centennial class of 2020.
“I’m numb right now,” Carmichael said on NFL Network shortly after the announcement. “This is the ultimate honor. I’ve been flashing back to all of the people that helped get me here. The roads, the journeys I took to get here. I’ve been so blessed. It’s been a great ride for me.”
Carmichael played 14 seasons in the league, 13 with the Eagles. He actually finished his career with the hated Dallas Cowboys, playing in two games for them in 1984.
Three contributors, including the late NFL Films president Steve Sabol, also were announced as inductees Wednesday. Two coaches — Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson — were announced over the weekend. Former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil was one of the eight finalists for the two coaching spots in Canton.
On Feb. 1 in Miami, five modern-era players will be chosen from among 15 finalists, filling out the 20-member centennial class.
At 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds, Carmichael, the 1971 seventh-round pick out of Southern, was nothing like the NFL had ever seen at wide receiver.
His superior size and catch radius made it difficult for defensive backs to defend him. In 1973, his third season with the Eagles, he led the league in receptions (67) and receiving yards (1,116). It was the first of nine straight seasons with 40-or-more catches and five-or-more touchdowns. From 1973 through 1983, no NFL receiver caught more passes for more yards or more touchdowns than Carmichael.
“What quarterback wouldn’t want to have a guy like that to throw to," said Ron Jaworski, who spent seven seasons with Carmichael. “Not only was he 6-8, but his hands touched the ground. He had a wingspan that was amazing."
Jaworski was acquired by the Eagles from the Los Angeles Rams in a 1977 trade. Over the next five seasons, he threw 102 touchdown passes -- 41 to Carmichael.
“When I got to Philadelphia, he had already established himself as one of the league’s premier wide receivers," Jaworski said. “In a very short time, I understood why. He had exceptional talent, exceptional character, and was a great team player. That run of years he had from ’75 to ’81 were about as good as you can get. He was my go-to guy."
Vermeil said: “He introduced me to the concept that no ball was uncatchable. I saw him make catches that, if I was really bright, I would’ve given him more opportunities to do it.
“You saw him do things that you hadn’t seen anybody else do. On a daily basis, watching him do what he did as well as he did it, you just pretty quickly realized that this guy was a freak of nature out there at his position."
Carmichael wasn’t sure what to expect after not getting drafted until the seventh round by the Eagles. “I was tall, but really skinny,” he said. "I questioned myself as to whether I could really play this game at this level. It took me two weeks to say to myself, ‘Yes, I can play. I can definitely play.’ "
Carmichael played in 182 games in his career. He played in a club-record 162 consecutive games. He caught at least one pass in 127 straight games, a league record at the time.
Carmichael was a four-time Pro Bowler. He was a first-team All-Pro in ’73, on a team that finished 5-8-1, and a second-team All-Pro selection in ’79, when he had a career-high 11 touchdown catches for an 11-win team.
If Carmichael had played for a more successful franchise, he likely would’ve gotten a bronze bust in Canton years ago. But the Eagles were perennial losers for a good portion of his career in Philadelphia.
They didn’t have a winning season or make the playoffs until Carmichael’s eighth year with the team. That was 1978, three years after Vermeil had been hired as head coach and a year after Vermeil traded for Jaworski.
Carmichael and the Eagles made the playoffs four straight years, from ’78 through ’81, and made it to the Super Bowl in ’80. Carmichael averaged 19.5 yards per catch in ’78. He averaged 17.0 yards per catch and had nine touchdown receptions during the Eagles’ 1980 Super Bowl run.
“A lot of people didn’t think Harold was very fast," Vermeil said. “But after he got 10 yards downfield, those next 10 yards, he was as fast as anybody. Once he got downfield, people had a hard time running with him."
Carmichael said that when he came into the league, we had Harold Jackson and Ben Hawkins [as wideouts]. They both were no more than 5-8. They were trying to get me to run patterns like a 5-8 guy, and I couldn’t do that. I was longer, wider.”
Two years after he joined the Eagles, the team hired former Green Bay Packer wide receiver Boyd Dowler as receivers coach. Dowler was 6-5. He understood big men are different than little men.
"He came in and said, ‘You can’t run patterns like a 5-8 guy,' " Carmichael said. “So they kind of adjusted a lot of the offense for me, and it started working out for me.”
Carmichael was more than just an outstanding player. In 1980, the year the Eagles went to the Super Bowl, he was named the NFL’s Man of the Year for his work with Eagles Fly For Leukemia, the United Way, Boy Scouts of America, and the Fellowship Commission of Philadelphia.
He spent nearly 20 years in the Eagles’ front office as the director of player and community relations, retiring three years ago. He still serves as a club ambassador.
“He’s one of my closest friends," Vermeil said. “He’s part of my life. He’s part of the Vermeil family, this guy is.
“He knows he can depend on me, and I know I can depend on him."
Said Jaworski: “I could talk for hours about Harold the football player. But he’s an even better person. The character of the man is just extraordinary. He set the standard."
The nine other senior players joining Carmichael in Canton will be offensive tackle Jim Covert (1983-90, Bears), safety Cliff Harris (1970-79, Cowboys), safety Bobby Dillon (1952-59, Packers), offensive tackle Winston Hill (1963-77, Jets), defensive tackle Alex Karras (1958-70, Lions), safety Donnie Shell (1974-87, Steelers), offensive tackle Duke Slater (1922-1931, Milwaukee Badgers, Rock Island Independents, Chicago Cardinals), end Mac Speedie (1946-52, Browns), and defensive end Ed Sprinkle (1944-55, Bears). Dillon, Hill, Karras, Slater, Speedie, and Sprinkle are deceased.
Lineman Al Wistert, an eight-time All-Pro who played on the Eagles’ 1948 and ’49 NFL-championship teams, was one of 20 senior finalists but not one of the 10 selected by a special committee. Wistert died in 2016 at 95.
Former New York Giants general manager George Young and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue were the other two contributors selected with Sabol.