BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The greatest receiver in Eagles history arrived in the Twin Cities on Thursday, almost giddy with anticipation at the chance to see the franchise he loves get another chance at the Super Bowl ring that once eluded him.
Harold Carmichael is having one heck of a run in retirement.
Carmichael, the legendary Southern receiver, found out in October that he'd been voted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame, an honor he's quietly coveted as he's watched other peers from his time in the SWAC inducted over the years. The honor came right in the middle of a magical season for the Eagles, the NFL team that has been Carmichael's passion and project for most of his adult life.
The thrill is at a fever pitch now. Carmichael, who was part of the 1980 Philadelphia team that reached the Super Bowl, is in Minnesota to watch his Eagles make a play for their first NFL championship since 1960 and their first Super Bowl ring, and next week he'll head to Atlanta for his formal induction into the Hall of Fame.
"It's been a great couple of months for me, from the news of my induction to the Black College Football Hall of Fame, to the NFC Championship Game and now the Super Bowl," Carmichael said. "This has been a great, great month for me."
Carmichael, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound seventh-rounder, spent the first 13 seasons of his incredible 14-year career in Philadelphia, racking up 589 catches, 8,978 yards and 79 touchdowns, all numbers that still stand as the best in franchise history and are in no jeopardy of falling any time soon.
When he retired after getting little playing time with Dallas, Carmichael had a choice. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and a SWAC star at Southern, Carmichael could have chosen to return to the South.
Except that Philadelphia had become his home.
"We chose to stay, although when I was done playing, we moved to south Jersey," Carmichael said. "That's just like Philadelphia, in my opinion. I didn't want to go any other place. I raised my family here."
Truth be told, the 13 years he spent playing for the Eagles had already turned him into a true Philadelphian.
"I'm originally from Florida. I was raised in the heat," Carmichael said. "And I can't stand the hot weather."
Carmichael also stayed because of his relationship with the Eagles.
He is all Eagle. When he was done playing, Carmichael was involved in a number of businesses outside of football, but he never really left the Philadelphia organization, serving as the director of player and community relations for 15 years, then as a fan engagement liaison, before retiring in April of 2015.
Neither of those titles really does justice to what Carmichael has meant to the Eagles over the years. In reality, Carmichael has been a friend, an invaluable resource to the generations of players that starred in Philadelphia after him. He was always present on the practice field, and off.
"I got a chance to mentor guys who've played a big part in the Eagles' success over the past few years," Carmichael said.
And he's only retired from the Eagles in name only. Now in a role as an ambassador, Carmichael is still around the team once or twice a week.
A Super Bowl title for his team would mean so much to him. Carmichael was an established star on the first Philadelphia team to reach the Super Bowl, a franchise legend already who caught five passes for 83 yards in the Eagles' 27-10 defeat at the hands of the Oakland Raiders.
He sees a few similarities between that Eagles team and the group that will take on the Patriots on Sunday.
"You know, when we went there, the team had great camaraderie, the chemistry was good," Carmichael said. "I feel the same way about this team. The chemistry is good, they've got a great coach in Doug Pederson, he brought in the right staff."
When Carmichael flew out of his adopted home city on Thursday, he could feel the excitement.
Both Carmichael and Philadelphia have waited a long, long time for a Super Bowl title, giving their hearts to the team and the players in the process only to come up short.
A win over the Patriots would be an unbelievable exclamation mark for this incredible run Carmichael is having at the age of 68.
"Not only me, I tell you, it's going to be exciting for the city of Philadelphia and the larger Eagles fan base," Carmichael said. "Flying out here, people just keep saying, even in the airport, they can't wait for Sunday."
Carmichael's ride then heads on to Atlanta for another incredible stop on this ride.