CANTON, Ohio - A couple dozen autograph collectors were camped out at the security exit of Akron-Canton Airport Thursday afternoon waiting for the dozens of Hall of Famers expected in town for this weekend's Pro Football Hall of Fame activities.
Harold Carmichael walked by, and a handful of Eagles fans immediately approached him for his autograph, and Harold of course graciously signed everything and spent a moment or two chatting with everyone.
Just then one autograph collector a few feet away said to another, "Who's that?"
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The other guy looked over and said, "Harold Carmichael."
The first guy said, "Is he in the Hall of Fame?"
The other said guy said, "Nah," and they both went back to the security exit waiting for actual Hall of Famers.
This really bugged me.
Here's one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history, but since he's not a Hall of Famer, I guess the value of his autograph is far lower than, say, the value of an autograph from Lynn Swann, whose career paled in comparison to Harold's.
If only those guys knew that they had just shrugged off one of the all-time greats.
Carmichael flew to Canton Thursday to support Brian Dawkins, who he's known for 20 years. But he should be flying to Canton for a different reason.
To be inducted himself.
Harold was that good.
Carmichael was a member of the NFL Team of the Decade for the 1970s. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro. In an era before wide receivers put up huge numbers, he put up huge numbers.
Read these five stats and try to make a case for Harold Carmichael not being in the Hall of Fame:
• When Carmichael retired after the 1984 season with 590 catches, only four players in NFL history had more - Charley Taylor, Don Maynard, Raymond Berry and Charlie Joiner. All are Hall of Famers.
• At that same point, Carmichael had 8,985 career yards, which was seventh most in NFL history, behind Maynard, Harold Jackson, Lance Alworth, Joiner, Berry and Taylor. All are Hall of Famers except Jackson, Carmichael's Eagles teammate.
• During the 11-year period from 1973 through 1983, Carmichael had 43 more catches, 46 more yards and 10 more touchdowns than anybody in the NFL. During an eleven-year period, he was the best receiver in the game.
• Harold was huge in the postseason, with games of 83, 84, 92 and 111 yards in the 1979 and 1980 playoffs. When he retired, he had the sixth-highest average yards per playoff game in NFL history at 67 per game (minimum of five games). He once had a receiving TD in four straight playoff games. To this day, only nine players in NFL history have had longer streaks.
• Carmichael was a seventh-round pick, and when he retired - again, before the proliferation of the high-powered passing games of today - only one player in NFL history drafted in the seventh round or later had more catches. That was Maynard, who is a Hall of Famer.
Also keep in mind that from 1973 through 1981, Carmichael never missed a game!
I asked Harold Thursday at the airport if it bothers him that he hasn't been recognized as one of the greatest in the history of the game. That he doesn't have a bust at the Hall of Fame when lesser players do.
Harold's humble. He just shrugged and smiled and said it doesn't bother him.
But you know what? It bothers me. It bothers me a lot.
Harold Carmichael might not be in the Hall of Fame, but in my book he's as much a Hall of Famer as anybody else.