#6 Harry Carson
Legend has it that the famous Giant defenses of the late 50’s, the ones that helped lead them to sustained success during the era, also helped in creating an entirely new iteration in the English language. After the Giants moved to Yankee Stadium in 1955, New York fans began a chant that is ubiquitous and so well known, that it changed the pronunciation of a word. The chant of “de-fense, de-fense” was created in Yankee Stadium to cheer on the ferocious defense as they fought their way to championship after championship .
This success however was all but non-existent less than a decade later. The team had become a shell of itself and had lost numerous Hall of Fame and All-Pro players to old age and to the upstart AFL. The team hobbled through the 70’s, missing the playoffs every year, and managing only two winning seasons. Following four stadium changes and a move to New Jersey in 1976, the Giants worked to reestablish themselves as a NFL power. That same year, they took a big step in accomplishing this by drafting linebacker Harry Carson in the 4th round out of South Carolina State.
Carson would become the centerpiece of a defensive unit that would experience a resurgence in the type of football that the Giants had been known for. After a 4-12 1980, the Giants drafted Lawrence Taylor in 1981, and along with Brad Van Pelt and Brian Kelley, the linebacker group helped lead the Giants to the playoffs after 18 years out of the post season. The defense became the focal point of the team, and at the center of it all was the veteran Harry Carson.
Carson’s greatest moment came in Super Bowl 21, when the captain was the lone representative for the Giants during the coin toss. His leadership, not to mention his ability as a tackler, steered the Giants from the irrelevancy of the late 70’s, to a contender in the early 80’s, and finally to a Super Bowl championship in 1986. He has been called one of the greatest tacklers in history and was at the heart of leading the Giants back to dominance. He mentored the likes of Carl Banks and Lawrence Taylor, and is still revered by coaches and teammates alike.
Following his retirement in 1988, Carson remained close with the Giants but his Hall of Fame induction was delayed for far too long. In 2006 he was inducted, but said in his speech, “The Hall of Fame will never validate me. I know my name will be in there, but I take greater pride in the fact that my teammates looked at me as someone they could count on.” And this is the sign of a truly great player. Carson’s greatness extended beyond his play and helped transform a dismal franchise into a winner once again.
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