Return record run over

DAVID W. UNKLE -- For SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Former Green Bay Packers Hall of Famer Al (Hoagy) Carmichael was on his way home from church expecting to watch his former team take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field.

Instead, the 78-year-old former halfback and return man was greeted with the news that his 50-year-old NFL record for the longest kickoff return now belonged to New England's Ellis Hobbs after his 108-yard scamper to open up the second half of the Pats' 38-14 win over the New York Jets.

Speaking from his home in southern California, Carmichael recalled that his 106-yard journey in 1956 against the Chicago Bears never should have happened at all.

"If the ball comes deep into the end zone, touch it down and don't try to run it out because chances are you're not going to go that far," were the wise words given to Carmichael by then-Packers head coach Lisle Blackbourn.

An independent-thinking Carmichael, who previously argued members of the Packers' coaching staff on the strategy, instead went with emotion rather than his coach's instructions.

"I didn't care how deep the ball was or where it came from, if I felt I could run it out, I would." With the score tied at 7-7 after the run, Carmichael was met with mixed emotion on the Packers' sideline.

"A lot of players came over and congratulated me but the coaches didn't come, especially coach Blackbourn," said Carmichael.

"I was expecting him to chew me out but he didn't even do that."

Perhaps it was due in part to the Bears triumphing over the Packers in that game, 37-21.

It wasn't until I was named Player-of-the-Day later that evening that he congratulated me on the record-setting run and then proceeded to tell me that I was wrong for doing it."

Since that time, Nolan Smith (Kansas City Chiefs) and Roy Green (St. Louis Cardinals) shared the record with Carmichael.

Hobbs, who previously went 93-yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return during the 2006-07 season made a pact with himself for this season.

"I understand if I want to have a great year I have to start off right, humble myself, and go out there and be aggressive," said Hobbs during a post-game press conference. "There are 10 other guys out there blocking for me...and I tell those guys all the time, even in practice, I'm bringing it out."

Hobbs' rationale is simple: "You don't make plays on the sideline."

"I tell myself don't let your teammates down, make the catch and let's get it up the field," explained Hobbs.

"You can feel it opening up....you want find the end zone and try to find the fifth, sixth, and seventh gears...the one's they don't even make."

"I'm out there for a reason: they pay me to make plays, they pay me to do a job," said Hobbs, sounding a lot like Carmichael. "They don't pay me to take a knee."

Recently, Carmichael penned (by hand) a coffee-table book entitled, "106 Yards" featuring stories and photos chronicling his exploits on the gridiron and a Hollywood career that included a role as a stunt double for Burt Lancaster in the 1951 film, Jim Thorpe: All-American.

Carmichael still owns one kick return record that can't be broken.

Four seasons later as a member of the Denver Broncos in the fledgling American Football League, Carmichael would become the first person to return a kickoff in the new league. In that game, the heavily-favored opposing team won the coin toss and surprisingly elected to kickoff.

Placekicker Tony Discenzo's offering landed in the arms of Bob McNamara who handed the ball to Carmichael perhaps expecting another record-setting romp.

It wasn't the case but Carmichael later caught a 59-yard strike from quarterback Frank Tripucka for the AFL's first-ever touchdown en route to a 13-10 victory.

"Imagine a University of Southern California halfback catching a touchdown from a Notre Dame quarterback," Carmichael recalled.

The opposing team that Carmichael and the Broncos defeated: the Boston Patriots.

The date: September 9, 1960.

"Records are like setting the bar for somebody else to break," Carmichael said. "I knew that someday someone else would take the gamble like I did."

For more information on Al "Hoagy" Carmichael and his book, visit his website: www.106yards.com

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David Unkle can be reached at: topcatsports@canoemail.com.


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