Former star return man Al Carmichael dies at 90

Playing for Packers in the 1950s, he set an NFL record that stood for 51 years


Al Carmichael, longtime holder of the NFL record for longest kickoff return, died Saturday in Palm Desert, Calif., according to the Palm Springs Desert Sun.

Carmichael, 90, played for the Packers from 1953-58 and was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1974. Drafted in the first round, he was a halfback and kick returner best known for his then NFL-record, 106-yard kickoff return against the Chicago Bears at old City Stadium on Oct. 7, 1956.

His record stood for 51 years. Although twice tied, the record wasn't broken until Ellis Hobbs of New England returned a kickoff 108 yards in 2007. Carmichael's return stood as a Packers record for 55 years. Randall Cobb finally broke it with a 108-yard return in 2011.

When Carmichael's six-year career with the Packers ended, he held the NFL records for most career kickoff returns and most career kickoff return yardage. His final tally with the Packers was: 153 kickoff returns for 3,907 yards, a 25.5 average, and 100 punt returns for a 7.5 average. Carmichael also still holds the team record for combined kick returns with 253.

"Normally, we're reprimanded if we run it out deep in the end zone," Carmichael said of his record return in 2001. "But I had gotten in an argument with a coach. He and I had words in the locker room and I came out kind of mad about everything. I said, 'If I go back on a kickoff, I don't care where it goes, I'm going to run it out.' The other back, I think it was Jack Losch, kept warning me not to do it and I decided on it anyway."

Carmichael led the Packers in kickoff returns in five of his six seasons and in punt returns three times. He also led the NFL in kickoff returns in 1955 with a 29.9 average.

While Carmichael was drafted to replace star left halfback Tony Canadeo, he never fulfilled those expectations, partly because he was never a featured ball carrier. He played mostly right halfback where he'd line up as a third back in the backfield and also as a flanker. As a result, he was a combination runner-receiver and finished his career in Green Bay with 712 yards rushing on 166 attempts, a 4.3 average per carry, and 994 yards on 75 pass receptions, a 13.3 average.

"He was a good running back and a good receiver," said former teammate and four-time Pro Bowl safety Bobby Dillon. "I don't know if he lived up to what he was expected to do. I never judged him on that. But he had a lot of ability."

Carmichael was selected by the Packers with the seventh overall choice of the 1953 NFL Draft. Three weeks earlier, he had scored the only touchdown on a 22-yard pass reception in Southern Cal's 7-0 Rose Bowl victory over the University of Wisconsin.

Carmichael was 24 years old when the Packers drafted him. After graduating from Gardena (Calif.) High School in 1946, he joined the Marines and played two years of football for the EL Toro Air Station and one year at Santa Ana Junior College before entering USC.

Carmichael was waived by the Packers on Aug. 26, 1959, a month into Vince Lombardi's first training camp. In 1960, when the American Football League was formed, Carmichael signed with Denver and played two more seasons.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara. He had two daughters, Pam and Stacy, with his late wife Jan.

A memorial service is scheduled for Sept. 28 at Shadow Rock Church in La Quinta, Calif. The public is welcome.

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