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Harry Carson

Football player Harry Carson was born on November 26, 1953 in Florence, South Carolina to Gladys Carson and Edgar Carson, Sr. He began playing football as a defensive end during his sophomore year at Wilson High School in Florence, where he also joined the Air Force Junior ROTC. In 1969, Carson transferred to the integrated McClenaghan High School, where he became a starting defensive end. Carson attended South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where he was a four-year starter as a defensive lineman under Coach Willie Jeffries. Carson played a role in setting a college football record for the fewest points allowed in 1974. He graduated with his B.S. degree in education in 1976.

Carson was drafted by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the 1976 NFL draft. Under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Marty Schottenheimer, Carson was trained to play middle linebacker. He was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team in 1976, and selected to play in the Pro Bowl in 1978, the first of nine in his career. Under Bill Parcells, who became head coach in 1983, the Giants improved, making the playoffs in 1984 and 1985. During the 1986 season, the Giants led the league with a 14-2 record, and Carson served as team captain for the team during the Super Bowl XXI victory in 1987 against the Denver Broncos. Carson led the team in tackles for five years, and served as captain for ten years. He retired from professional football in 1988.

Carson was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome in 1990, due to the head trauma sustained during his NFL career. He became a leading voice in speaking out for the rights and proper care of retired NFL players who suffer from diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He released his autobiography, Captain for Life in 2011, and appeared in the documentary League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis in 2013. He was also active in healthcare organizations like Meridian Neuroscience Health System Inc., the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and the Aplastic Anemia Foundation. Carson was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Harry Carson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 1, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.015

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/1/2016

Last Name

Carson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Holmes Elementary School

Wilson High School

McClenaghan High School

South Carolina State University

First Name

Harry

Birth City, State, Country

Florence

HM ID

CAR33

Favorite Season

Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii, Antigua

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/26/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken, Potato Salad

Short Description

Football player Harry Carson (1953 - ) played for the New York Giants for thirteen years. A nine time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Employment

New York Giants

CNN

MSG

ABC

Fritz-Pollard Alliance

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Harry Carson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Harry Carson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Harry Carson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Harry Carson describes his mother's career

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Harry Carson lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Harry Carson describes his relationship with his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Harry Carson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Harry Carson recalls the impact of his mother's move to Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Harry Carson remembers the lack of opportunity for African Americans in South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Harry Carson remembers his parents' marriage

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Harry Carson describes his relationship with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Harry Carson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Harry Carson remembers Holmes Elementary School in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Harry Carson describes Wilson Junior High School in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Harry Carson describes his activities at Wilson High School in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Harry Carson recalls playing football at the Florence Boys Club of America

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Harry Carson recalls joining the football team at Wilson High School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Harry Carson recalls his admiration of professional football players

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Harry Carson remembers playing football at Wilson High School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Harry Carson recalls transferring to McClenaghan High School in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Harry Carson remembers racial discrimination in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Harry Carson describes his experiences at McClenaghan High School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Harry Carson recalls the integrated football team at McClenaghan High School

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Harry Carson recalls leading a boycott of football practice at McClenaghan High School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Harry Carson remembers his high school girlfriend

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Harry Carson recalls quitting the football team at McClenaghan High School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Harry Carson recalls his decision to attend South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Harry Carson recalls playing for Coach Willie Jeffries

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Harry Carson recalls his football teammates at South Carolina State College

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Harry Carson describes the defensive prowess of his college team

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Harry Carson describes his academic accomplishments at South Carolina State College

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Harry Carson recalls being scouted by the National Football League

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Harry Carson recalls being drafted by the New York Giants

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Harry Carson describes his transition to middle linebacker

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Harry Carson recalls his first National Football League training camp

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Harry Carson recalls his rookie season with the New York Giants

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Harry Carson describes the traits of a successful football player

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Harry Carson talks about his rookie contract with the New York Giants

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Harry Carson describes the birth of his daughter, Aja Carson-Gurley

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Harry Carson remembers becoming a Pro Bowl linebacker

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Harry Carson remembers his influences as a middle linebacker

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Harry Carson recalls playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Harry Carson talks about amphetamine use in the National Football League

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Harry Carson remembers middle linebacker Willie Lanier

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Harry Carson recalls his knee injury

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Harry Carson recalls his clinical depression

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Harry Carson remembers his New York Giants teammate Lawrence Taylor

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Harry Carson remembers the 1982 National Football League season

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Harry Carson remembers John Riggins of the Washington Redskins

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Harry Carson recalls the death of his former teammate, Doug Kotar

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Harry Carson describes the severe injuries in the National Football League

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Harry Carson recalls playing for Coach Bill Parcells on the New York Giants

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Harry Carson remembers suffering from post-concussion syndrome

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Harry Carson describes his offseason job at Grumman Aerospace Corporation

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Harry Carson recalls a play against the San Francisco 49ers

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Harry Carson remembers creating the Gatorade shower tradition

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Harry Carson recalls the New York Giants' dinners at Beefsteak Charlie's

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Harry Carson remembers qualifying for Super Bowl XXI

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Harry Carson recalls winning Super Bowl XXI with the New York Giants

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Harry Carson remembers the season after his Super Bowl championship

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Harry Carson remembers being involved in a drug testing controversy

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Harry Carson reflects upon his relationship with Coach Bill Parcells

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Harry Carson recalls becoming a football commentator

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Harry Carson reflects upon his relationship with the New York Giants

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Harry Carson remembers his rejection from the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Harry Carson recalls learning about chronic traumatic encephalopathy

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Harry Carson talks about former football players with brain trauma

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Harry Carson describes the National Football League's response to traumatic brain injuries

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Harry Carson talks about raising awareness of traumatic brain injuries in football

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Harry Carson reflects upon the future of the National Football League

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Harry Carson reflects upon his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Harry Carson describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Harry Carson talks about his family

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Harry Carson describes his work with the Fritz Pollard Alliance

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Harry Carson reflects upon his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Harry Carson narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Harry Carson narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

7$8

DAStory

9$2

DATitle
Harry Carson remembers creating the Gatorade shower tradition
Harry Carson remembers qualifying for Super Bowl XXI
Transcript
Eighty-five [1985], the Giants [New York Giants] are, under Bill Parcells, are getting better. They're winning games and one of your teammates, Jim Burt, the nose tackle, invents a new way to celebrate.$$I don't know if he invented it. We've gotten some pushback from the Chicago Bears, and they said that they invented it. But, I think it was a Monday when Parcells--we had just won a game and Parcells went to Jim Burt and he said, "You know, that Jeff Bostic, you better watch him, Jim. You know, he's going to have you for lunch." And Parcells is the master manipulator and he just kept riding Jim Burt all during the course of the week. And, you know, Jim is getting himself ready to play, we go into the game, and he keeps asking me, "Is everything okay?" 'Cause he's my protector, you know, with the center. Is, you know, "Is the guy getting off on you?" I said, "No, everything is good, Jim." So, he's playing his rear end off, and so as the game is winding down, Jim comes to me and he says, "You know, that Parcells is such a prick." And he said, "Oh, he makes me mad. We should get him with something." I said, "What do you mean, we should get him?" He said, "You know, you're Parcells' boy. You know, he loves you. I'm just the guy who if I do something to him, you know, he's gonna have my ass." I said, "Well, Jim, what do you think you want to do?" He said, "Let's get him with the Gatorade." And I said, "The Gatorade?" He said, "Yeah, let's douse him with the Gatorade." And so he said, you know, "I just want to get him." I said, "Jim, I'll do it with you." He said, you know, "He won't bother you but, you know, he might say something to me." And so as time was winding down, I said, "Don't do anything until he takes his headset off because I don't want him to be electrocuted just in case." And so as time was winding down, you know, we're behind him and he takes his headset off, and then we get him with the Gatorade. And so when we got him, nobody really saw it because, you know, it was a one-time thing, it was in the '85 [1985] season and, you know, that was it. And so we sort of moved on. But that was the one time that it happened during the eighty--'85 [1985] season for us. Now, if you ask the Bears, they would say that they did it maybe a year or two prior to that on Ditka [Mike Ditka] (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) I don't remember. You know, I--$$Yeah.$$I was in Chicago [Illinois] then. I watched the Bears on Sunday.$$Yeah.$$I don't remember--I think Parcells was the first coach I saw doused.$$Yeah.$$Now, they may--maybe they're right.$$Yeah.$$But, I remember Parcells--$$Yeah.$$--you know.$$Well, I'm not gonna argue with them--$$Yeah.$$--because, you know, it doesn't make any difference between who did it. But the point that you're getting to is, we did it all through the '86 [1986] season, and it really started because we--obviously, we lost to the Bears in the playoffs, and it was a painful experience and everybody thought--you know, we all thought that we were better than the Bears, but we just didn't bring it and we didn't show it on the field. And so, we came back to training camp and we were all committed. We were all in, you know, in terms of getting to the Super Bowl the next year. And so, we had some issues with different players, contract situations and so forth. And so, starting the season off, we go to Dallas [Texas] and we lose to Dallas [Dallas Cowboys] in Dallas. And then we started getting hate mail from some fans who said that we'll never amount to anything because we got too many niggers on the team and the white guys are no different, they're a bunch of jerkoffs and blah, blah. So, it was somebody who was--hated the team and then hated everybody on the team.$$But they sent the mail to you, right?$$Yeah, they sent the mail to me. And so the next game, we played the San Diego Chargers, and San Diego the previous week had just beaten the Miami Dolphins, like fifty-five to ten, something like that. And so we go into the game and we're playing and we wound up beating the Chargers at home. And so we were so overjoyed that we wanted to celebrate. And so I thought, get him with the Gatorade. We did it last year, let's get him with the Gatorade. And once I got him, and he was totally surprised 'cause he didn't think it was coming again, but once I got him, it became a routine because I had to keep--as long as we won, you had to keep doing it. And he's a (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, there's a superstition--$$He's a creature of habit--yeah.$$Yeah.$$I mean, if you do something one week and if it works, you have to keep doing it. And so it wasn't so much that I wanted to do it, I had to keep doing it because of the whole superstition thing with him.$You mentioned before, the Bears [Chicago Bears] won in '85 [1985], and you all were--you all had a great season in '86 [1986], and this is--so, you had been playing eleven years by this time? Is that--$$Yeah.$$Eleven years, right. And--well, tell us about the Super Bowl and--Super Bowl XXI, yeah.$$Well, you know, to--yeah, I can tell you about the Super Bowl but, you know, all of that season, we sort of knew that we were gonna go to the Super Bowl 'cause we knew what we had to do. We had that much confidence. And so we went through the whole football season. We lost the first game and then another game in Seattle [Seattle Seahawks] during the course of the year, and it was good for us to lose that game in Seattle 'cause it kept us on track and kept us focused. The remainder of the year, we beat people into submission, and we knew that in order for us to achieve our goal, we had to really play our best. And so I felt really bad for some of the teams that we played because we were really physical and we just beat the crap out of them physically. And then we made the playoffs, played San Francisco [San Francisco 49ers]. They had been our nemesis for a number of years. And then we played the Washington Redskins. Obviously, we had a relationship with Washington; that was the third game that we were playing them. But those games were at our place, and it was so important to have home field advantage. And then we won, became NFC [National Football Conference] champs, and then had to go to California to play in Super Bowl XXI. And that really was the fulfillment of a dream for all of us as players because we'd worked so hard to get to that point. And, you know, it was about making the most of that opportunity.$$This is at the Rose Bowl at Pasadena [California], right?$$Yeah, um-hm, at the Rose Bowl and, you know, you run into the stadium, you're being introduced, and for me, you know, there are a lot of things that are going through my mind, especially those early teams when the team wasn't very good and I'm thinking that I wish some of those players who were a part of those teams could be there. And in a way, I felt like we were representing all of those guys who had played over the years and never made it to the Super Bowl like Brad Van Pelt and Brian Kelley. So, it was exciting to run into the Rose Bowl and see a sea of blue and orange, and to see the blimps and the planes flying overhead with the banners and, you know, it's the biggest game that you could ever play in. And, I'm thinking that first day stepping on the football field and quitting, and I'm thinking about quitting in high school [McClenaghan High School, Florence, South Carolina], and I'm thinking about South Carolina State [South Carolina State College; South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, South Carolina], and here I am; I'm playing in the Super Bowl. So, you know, there are a multitude of things that are going through my mind as we take the field and it's--you know, people ask, "What does it feel like playing in the Super Bowl?" And I say, "It's like walking on the moon." You have to experience it to truly understand what it's all about. You can't, can't really describe it.$$There's so much enthusiasm. There's millions of television viewers. Everything that you do in the game is gonna be scrutinized. And you're playing the Denver Broncos, who were led by young John Elway, who had just defeated the Cleveland Browns again with a miracle play at the end of--'cause I'm a Browns fan. I know about it. The fumble this time instead of the drive.$$Yeah.$$But, here the Denver Broncos are in the Super Bowl.$$Well, you know, we knew Denver and we knew that they were a threat any time they stepped on the field. Elway had a strong arm and they had a really good running attack, they had a very good defense, and we had to rise to the occasion. Defensively, I felt like we could hang with them. Offensively, I wasn't quite sure. I didn't expect Phil Simms to have the game that he had (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) And he had one of his best games.$$Yeah, yeah.