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Harold Carmichael retiring; should he be in Hall?

4/2/2015

PHILADELPHIA – The world’s tallest ballboy is retiring.

Harold Carmichael, who has worked in various jobs in the Philadelphia Eagles’ organization during the past 20 years, was a regular sight during practices. The 6-foot-8 Carmichael would help place the ball before each play. When a wide receiver or tight end would catch a pass downfield, he would often fire the ball back to Carmichael, who often caught it one-handed before placing it for the next play.

As Carmichael steps away at age 65, it’s probably worth asking if the former wide receiver deserves consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Carmichael played for the Eagles from 1971 through 1983. During those 13 seasons, Carmichael caught 589 passes for 8,978 yards and 79 touchdowns. He caught exactly one more pass for 17 yards as a member of the Dallas Cowboys in 1984.

Timing is everything when evaluating a receiver’s career. Carmichael played during the 1970s and early 1980s, just before rules changes caused passing stats to explode. Carmichael led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,116 in 1973. In 1977, the NFL leader, Dallas’ Drew Pearson, had fewer than 1,000 yards (870).

During the initial period for Carmichael to receive Hall of Fame consideration, in the late 1980s, players such as Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin were putting up vastly expanded numbers. Carmichael’s stats didn’t seem as impressive by comparison.

But the website Pro-Football-Reference.com compares players from different eras. The players who compare most closely with Carmichael include Andre Rison, Larry Fitzgerald, John Stallworth, Keyshawn Johnson and Fred Biletnikoff. Stallworth and Biletnikoff are in the Hall of Fame. Fitzgerald seems like a near-lock for enshrinement when his career is over.

Stallworth, who was enshrined in 2002, caught slightly fewer passes (537) for fewer yards (8,723) and fewer touchdowns (63) over his 14-year career. He was a member of three Super Bowl winning teams, but that’s also an indication that he played with a superior quarterback for much of his career.

Carmichael led the NFL in receiving in 1973 with Roman Gabriel at quarterback. He also had the chance to play with Ron Jaworski for seven years.

Carmichael’s work in the Eagles’ player development department, where he served as a liaison and counselor for players, should also count as contributing to the game. Upon news of Carmichael’s retirement, recently departed Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin summed up his impact in a tweet.

“Nothin but respect for Harold Carmichael!” Maclin tweeted. “Appreciate everything he did for me while I was there. Great player even better person. Thanks!”

That about sums it up – except for the world’s tallest ballboy part.