He felt embarrassed about the annual sleight, knowing only linebackers Lawrence Taylor, his former teammate, and Mike Singletary, his peer during the 1980s, had played in more Pro Bowls (10) than Carson (nine) among current Hall of Famers.
That is why he wrote letters to the Hall of Fame asking that his name being removed from consideration the last two years. That is why he threatened not to attend his own induction if elected.
"It's not that I didn't want to be in the Hall of Fame," Carson said. "It's a tremendous honor for anyone who has played. But I'll be honest with you, when I started playing it wasn't on my list of things to do. I looked at it like gravy. I had a great career (1976-88), left when I wanted to and had a good time doing it. I just wanted to get on with my life.
"Initially, I was thrilled with being recognized as a candidate, but over the years it's lost its luster. I've never been disenchanted with the Hall of Fame. It was more being disenchanted with the process of selection."
That is why he chose to be on a flight to Hawaii in February when the 39 voters selecting the Class of 2006 finally granted entry.
"I've become a little detached from the situation," Carson said. "It wasn't something I expected. I'd put it out of my mind, tried not to think about it over the years.
"It has become a no-no subject to me. People close to me knew not to talk about it because I'd been up and down with it so much in the past. As a football player you train yourself not to put yourself into a situation before you're in it."
Carson said he would not disappoint those who supported him by accepting the honor with anything less than grace.
"People have speculated whether I'll show up [at the August induction in Canton, Ohio]," Carson said. "Obviously, I'll show up. For me not to show up would be disrespectful of those who went to bat for me."
But that doesn't mean his friends feel he wasn't somehow insulted by the long wait, albeit one significantly shorter than many others now in the Hall of Fame.
"It's a shame he had to wait this long, but I'm very happy for him because he damn sure deserves it," Taylor said.
Ironically, Carson was in baggage claim in Honolulu – at 2:15 a.m., E.S.T., on Super Bowl Sunday – when he discovered his life was suddenly different.
"When I walked out there someone said ‘Congratulations, Mr. Carson,' I didn't know what they meant for a moment," Carson said. "I'm happy personally. But I'm more happy for my support base, my family and the Giants organization. "
Carson said he didn't spend the flight thinking about how the selection process was proceeding. The passenger sitting in front of him recognized him and seemed curious to see him, knowing the Hall of Fame vote was going on while they were in the air.
"I told him we weren't going to talk about that [the election]," Carson said. "It had become a no-no subject. People close to me have come to know not to talk about it. They knew we weren't going to go there.'
Carson was the only member of the Class of 2006 – Troy Aikman, the late Reggie White [represented by his wife], Warren Moon, John Madden and Rayfield Wright – not present when the announcement was made the day before the Super Bowl.
But his induction in August, prior to the NFL preseason opener in Canton between the Raiders and Eagles on Aug. 6, will serve to validate his contributions to one of the greatest eras in Giants history.
"I am ecstatic for Harry Carson. Not only was he an outstanding player, Harry was also a great leader and a terrific role model for all the players, especially the young ones who came to the Giants after he did," said Bill Belichick, the Patriots coach and former Giants defensive coordinator.
Carson has made sure to thank the late Giants owner Wellington Mara, a member of the Hall of Fame, for his support over the years. Mara died in October.
"When I started to have a change of heart about the situation was when Mr. Mara passed away," Carson said. ‘I knew how strongly he felt about me being a Hall of Famer and if it did come I couldn't tarnish his feelings. I would never embarrass him, his family, the Giants or the NFL."
Now that he's in, Carson said he would not spend any more time wondering why it took so long.
"People have asked me for years whether I deserved to be a Hall of Famer and my answer has always been, ‘Don't ask me, ask those I played against or played with,'" Carson said. "After hearing the opinion of those people [validating his candidacy] then it really didn't matter how anyone else thought. If I earned their respect, that's the most important thing any player can walk away with.
"My mother used to tell me, ‘Give me my flowers while I can smell them.' I got the same feeling when I found out how other players felt about me. It was as if they gave me those flowers."
Carson finally gets call to Hall
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