Over the course of an NFL career there may not have been a more overlooked Middle Linebacker than the heavy hitting Harry Carson of the New York Giants. For 13 years he was the man in the middle for the Giants, first as the guy in a 4-3 defense. Then once the Giants drafted Lawrence Taylor he shared inside linebacker duties in a 3-4 unit. Adulation and praise for his play was slow and coming from NFL fans everywhere but Giants fans knew his true value. His peers voted him to a record (at the time) nine Pro Bowls with the last coming in 1987.
He was the most physical inside linebacker in the heyday of the NFC East, which at that time had 1,000 yard rushers in Hall of Famer John Riggins of the Redskins, Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett of the Cowboys, Wilbert Montgomery of the Eagles, and Ottis OJ Anderson out of St Louis. The success of the Giants in the early to mid 80s began with Carson stuffing the opponents running game, then unleashing Lawrence Taylor and Leonard Marshall after opposing quarterbacks.
At 6’2 235lbs, Carson looked even bigger in his oversized shoulder pads and thigh pads. He was a more imposing presence in the middle which includes Mike Singletary as one of his contemporaries. Yet make no mistake about it, Carson was a cerebral player who reduced his position to one of angles and leverage. He read offensive blocking schemes and reduced the number of steps needed to get to the ball carrier and never took the wrong angle. In that aspect he was a modern day version of Willie Lanier of the 1960s Kansas City Chiefs.
Carson was the lone defensive stalwart on a losing Giants team for much of his career. Once the Giants surrounded him with other defensive stars during the 1980’s with Taylor, Carl Banks, and Leonard Marshall to go along with long time DE George Martin to form one of the finest defenses of the 1980s. He led them through the losing years, then all the way to the Super Bowl XXI triumph over the Denver Broncos. In 1988 Carson retired and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.