In my last entry, I quoted from Al Carmichael’s self-published memoir from 2006, 106 Yards. This book is a lavishly illustrated treasure for Packer fans. Put together by Al and his son Chris in 2006 on the fiftieth anniversary of Al’s celebrated 106-yard return, the book is full of anecdotes from Carmichael’s very full life.
After serving in the Marines and leading the nation in scoring at Santa Ana Junior College, Al enrolled at USC where he played with such future pros as Frank Gifford, Rudy Bukich and Jim Sears. In fact, Carmichael caught the winning touchdown pass in the 1952 showdown with UCLA that put USC in the 1953 Rose Bowl, where Al again caught the winning score for the Trojans.
It was during his time at USC that Al got involved in the film business and over the next 15 years, he worked as an extra and stunt man on countless movies and television shows. The book includes entertaining stories of his work on such movies as Jim Thorpe, All American, Spartacus and Elmer Gantry with stars like Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglass.
Of greatest interest to Packer fans, though, is his account of his six years in Green Bay, playing under Gene Ronzani, Lisle Blackbourn, Scooter McLean and, for one training camp, Vince Lombardi. The Packers didn’t win many games in Al’s time, but they had lots of characters who make for some great stories in this book. Tales of Dick Afflis, Howie Ferguson, Paul Hornung and Ray Nitschke, not to mention opponents like George Halas, Sid Gillman, Ed Sprinkle and Artie Donovan, make for a diverting immersion in a different era of pro football.
And Al has his own take even on familiar stories. In Instant Replay, for instance, Jerry Kramer tells of the time that Nate Borden borrowed Max McGee’s car and crashed it in the front window of a local furniture store. Unperturbed, Max doesn’t even look up when responding, “How much furniture did we buy, Nate?” In Carmichael’s version, Borden instead hands McGee the bent steering wheel from the wreck, and Max simply props it against his chair and keeps on playing cards. Al further asserts that anytime a teammate screwed up that season, he had to carry the bent steering wheel around with him that day.
After a short time in the CFL, Carmichael joined the Denver Broncos of the fledgling American Football League in 1960 and scored the very first touchdown in league history against the Patriots in the AFL’s first game. After retiring in 1961, Al eventually moved into a successful career in real estate. His book is a good read and the wealth of period football photos are delightful to page through.
All but the 1955 custom card are colorized.