Carson Receives Word upon Arrival In Hawaii

Detroit – Harry Carson had just arrived in Honolulu Saturday night after a long journey from New Jersey when a youngster approached him and said, "Congratulations.""I thought he was pulling my leg," Carson said this morning. "I thought it was another one of those crank things."

Almost immediately, five or six other people approached Carson to offer their best wishes. So he turned on his cell phone and learned what his family, friends, fans and supporters had known for hours: Carson had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"Right now, I'm still pretty numb regarding this," Carson said on a conference call from Hawaii. "I'm happy. To be completely honest, I'm happy for my support base – my family, my very, very good friends and all of the fans. I've always known that I was a fan favorite. The support I've gotten from football fans, not just in New York, has been great. The Giants fans have been tremendous. There are fans all over the country and the world who are familiar with the situation. I've gotten so many words of encouragement and support from people wherever I go.

"I'm happy personally. I'm happy for the Giants organization. I'm happy for my family, because my family really supported me. It's sort of difficult to put into words, the whole concept of what I'm feeling right now."

An inside linebacker, Carson was one of the greatest players in Giants history. A nine-time Pro Bowler in a 13-year career that stretched from 1976-88, Carson was a two-time All-NFL selection, a team captain at age 25 and a leader throughout his career, most notably on the 1986 Super Bowl champions.

For Carson, the journey to Canton was a long one. He was elected in his 13th season of Hall of Fame eligibility. It was the seventh time he reached the list of 15 finalists, the group that is discussed and voted on by the Hall's 39-member Board of Selectors who meet annually on the day before the Super Bowl. That list is cut to 10, then to a final six, which Carson yesterday reached for the third time.

A few years ago, Carson became disenchanted with the selection process. In 2004 Carson twice wrote letters to Hall of Fame officials asking that his name be removed from the ballot. But there is no provision in the Hall's bylaws for such an action.

"I felt very adamant about being removed from the process," Carson said. "It's not that I didn't want to me in the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor for any player that has played. When I started playing football, it wasn't on my list of things to do. I look at it as gravy. I had a great career, I enjoyed doing what I did, I left when I wanted to leave. I wanted to get on with my life."

Carson's displeasure was so acute that those close to him knew now to initiate conversations about the Hall.

"It had become a ‘no-no' subject for me," Carson said. "People close to me knew not to talk about it, because we just weren't going to go there."

Nor would Carson. That's why he would turn his phone off the day the Board of Selectors met, and why he would sit on a plane for 10 hours on a day in which he could join pro football's immortal figures.

Carson is the 29th member of the Hall of Fame with ties to the Giants – those who played all or part of their careers with the team, or were Giants coaches or owners. Franchise founder Tim Mara and his son, Wellington, who died last Oct. 25, are both enshrined in the Hall.

"I think about Mr. Mara and how he rooted for me," Carson said. "He was one of my staunchest supporters throughout this process."

Carson's differences with the voting procedures caused some to wonder if he would refuse to enter the Hall if he was voted in. In fact, he never entertained such thoughts, and is eager to stand with the other members of this year's impressive class – Troy Aikman, John Madden, Warren Moon, Reggie White and Rayfield Wright – in Canton on the weekend of Aug. 5-6. He spoke this morning with Hall of Fame Vice President of Communications Joe Horrigan.

"Where I sort of had a change of heart was when Mr. Mara passed away," Carson said. "There were so many things that went through my mind during that time. I knew how strongly he felt about me being a Hall of Famer. I knew that if it did come, I couldn't tarnish his memory, because it's something that he wanted for me. And I would never embarrass his memory, embarrass the Giants organization, or embarrass the National Football League.

"Obviously, I will show up. The whole process sort of made me sour. But for me not to show up would be disrespecting those people who really went to bat for me, who really thought I should be there."

This has been an emotional few months for Carson. His daughter, Aja, made him a first-time grandfather with the birth of her daughter Jamison. But during her pregnancy, doctors discovered cancerous cells in her cervix. The doctors waited until she delivered the baby before treating the cancer.

"It's very difficult for a father to hear that your child has some form of cancer, I don't care what it is," said Carson, who added that his daughter has another doctor's appointment scheduled for March 10. "She's only 26. I spoke with her this morning and she's doing fine. She's very happy."

On Dec. 10, his son, Donald, graduated from Savannah State with a degree in biology. A few days later the former football and basketball player was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, and has since been in and out of hospitals.

"I spoke with Donald three times yesterday and said if he needed me to be there I'd get off the flight," Carson said. His son urged him to travel to Hawaii. This is annual trip Carson takes with former teammates Lawrence Taylor (also a Hall of Famer), Brad Van Pelt and Brian Kelley (who will be unable to attend this year because of business commitments).

Carson, who has not yet decided who his presenter will be in August, will appear with the other living members (White is deceased) of the Hall of Fame Class of 2006 at next week's Pro Bowl.

Maybe then he won't be so numb.

The Giants Beat Top Stories