NFL Hall Of Famer Carson Extols Values, Education And Community

By Ivan McDowell
Updated: August 5, 2007

BIRMINGHAM — 13 seasons spent in the National Football League taught Harry Carson one thing about the glitz and glamour of professional football.

“It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” said Carson, who spoke to players, media and SWAC officials at last week’s Media Day luncheon in Birmingham.

Carson, who spent his entire illustrious career in New York toiling for the Giants, is considered one of the greatest linebackers in the history of the game and his on the field accomplishments justify that gaudy distinction.

He made nine Pro Bowl appearances (1978-1979, 1981-1987) in his career. In the 1980′s, he was joined by linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks, giving the Giants one of the most feared and respected group of linebackers in the NFL.

A Florence, S.C. native, Carson played collegiately at historically black South Carolina State where from 1972-1975 he didn’t miss a single game all four years. He became the first MEAC player to win two consecutive defensive player of the year honors, and assisted the Bulldogs to two consecutive conference titles.

In 1975, he was a first-team selection on the College Football All-America Team and set school records with 117 tackles and 17 sacks. With Carson as their captain, the Bulldogs defense recorded six shutouts in 1975, and held their opponents to just 29 points, an NCAA record for a 10-game season. In 2002, Carson was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Caustically, Carson warned student-athletes in attendance not to put all of their efforts into making the {league} that made him a star.

“I don’t advise people to seek out a career in professional sports because there are very few that can make it to that level, and even if you do, at some point it will be over.”

According to the NFL Players Association the average career in the {league} lasts a fleeting three and a half years.

“If you’re in your early twenties and you last three to four years, then suddenly in your mid to late twenties it’s over. You have to be able to get on with the rest of your life.”

Carson praised his humble beginnings in Florence and the lessons he learned while at South Carolina State for preparing him not for football, but for life afterwards.

“I focused on my education first and not being drawn in by the lure of mega dollars playing professional sports,” positioned Carson, who excelled off the field academically as well, earning a Bachelor of Education and winning awards for the highest academic average amongst Black College All-Americans.

As a player, Carson started making the transition into corporate America by focusing on business opportunities while he was already in the New York market and nurturing relationships in the community.

After retiring at the end of the 1988 season and two years after assisting the Giants to its first Super Bowl win in Super Bowl XXI, Carson turned to broadcasting, where he is currently an analyst on the New York Giants’ pre-season broadcasting team.

Though Carson is currently involved in many different ventures, perhaps most near and dear to the football side of Carson is his work with Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization that advocates for policy changes in NFL hiring practices and works in partnership with the NFL to create opportunities for minority candidates.

Pollard became the first black coach in professional football in 1921.

“I have never had a problem in speaking my mind, especially when it comes to issues of diversity in the NFL and speaking on those players who have made the league what is today”, Carson added.

“I just try to bring light to these issues in a classy, professional way, yet be forceful and articulate about my concerns.”

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