And they are huge hands, measuring 9½" from the palms to the tips of his middle fingers. Indeed, when Carmichael makes the one-handed catch he calls The Stab, he resembles a man plucking a lemon from a tree. "They're my living," he says, studying his hands as if they were curious objets d'art. And because they are, in a way, he has lately taken to wearing protective "catcher's mitts," golf gloves swabbed with stickum.
Jaworski is called the Polish Rifle for good reason, and while the gloves may not take all of the sting out of his high hard one, Carmichael prefers the "stiff ball" to the soft. "Helps me concentrate, stay alert," he says. "When Ronnie throws, you have to get your head around quicker. If you don't, he'll take it off."
As for the linebackers who practice another kind of beheading ritual when he cuts across the middle, Carmichael isn't without recourse. Unlike most wide receivers, he loves to block. And whether he is "putting the blade" on opponents with his scythelike forearms or throwing the full force of his 225 pounds into a cross-body block, he seems to really believe that it's better to give than to receive. Averaging two knock-down blocks a game, he is the subject of a training film that Eagle coaches show to rookies for inspirational purposes. Vermeil says, "Harold blocks so well we often use him as a second tight end. I've seen him dump linebackers, I mean cut them down. He can really uncoil, I'll tell you."
For all his Iron Man ways, though, Carmichael wears his heart on his 39-inch sleeve. "His big weakness is that when things go badly, he pouts, gets down on himself," says Vermeil. "He feels he's not living up to his teammates' expectations."
Worse, Carmichael feels that he must live down the supposed stigma that goes with being the "tallest Eagle that flies." He says, "I really don't think that a man's size determines his ability. If being big is all it takes, then why don't more guys quit basketball and take up football? People have been coming up to me for years, saying, 'Look at your hands, look at how tall you are. You should catch every pass that's thrown at you.' Well it's not that easy. It looks like it should be. I know that. But anybody who thinks it's easy never played this game.
"I really believe height makes no difference. I know people are going to say that's silly. Sure, I use my size to shield myself whenever I can, but there are only about a half dozen times in an entire season when my height has been the difference between catching a pass and not catching it. There's so much more involved. You still have to run your routes correctly, beat great athletes and have the ball thrown where you can catch it.
"I can't help my height. I'm not out there because I'm 6'8". I worked hard for this. So did the guys on the other side. People forget about them. They get paid, too. People don't see them knocking my arms, stripping the ball away. My height advantage unfair? Not when they're hitting me."
It was a band master who laid the first licks on Carmichael, in Jacksonville, Fla. His mother, who recalls that Harold was of ordinary height "and then one night he just jumped up," insisted that he play the trombone, which he did, "poorly," he recalls. "We had a conductor who would rap you on the head with his baton every time you hit a sour note. I got rapped a lot. That's when I first learned about playing with pain."
In high school, as a 6'6" quarterback and wide receiver on the "worst team in our school's history," Carmichael quite literally reached out and grabbed the only college scholarship offer that came his way. "We were throwing the ball around the gym one afternoon and a buddy of mine uncorked the wildest pass you ever saw," he says. "I went up and stabbed it with one hand and, wouldn't you know, a scouting friend of our coach was watching at that exact moment."
On the theory that anyone his size must be either a basketball center or a tight end, Carmichael was assigned to both positions at Southern University in Baton Rouge. Though he spent more time blocking than running pass patterns in his senior year, he expected that his size and his 4.7 speed would serve him well in the 1971 NFL draft. "I was thinking maybe third round and $30,000 a year and a Lincoln Continental," he says. When the Eagles finally came calling, it was the seventh round, $13,500 and a Buick Electra.