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Gummy Carr remembered for lifetime of success

By Frank Giardina

Our state lost one of its most accomplished football heroes on Aug. 13 when former NFL star and coach Jim "Gummy" Carr died in Indiana.

Carr's life is a miraculous story. He was a Cabin Creek kid whose childhood was marred by illness and misfortune. As a youngster he suffered severe burns to his legs that required skin grafts and forced him to use crutches for a year.

He earned the nickname of "Gummy" when he came down with rheumatic fever as a teenager. The disease ravaged his body so badly that he lost most of his teeth. 

Carr eventually recovered, and after graduating from East Bank High School went on to an outstanding college career at Morris Harvey, where he served as a kick returner, running back, defensive back and linebacker.

He played in three bowl games while at Morris Harvey and was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1962.

Carr went on to the NFL, where he played nine seasons as a defensive back for the Chicago Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.  In Philadelphia he was a starting left cornerback for the Eagles team that won the 1960 NFL championship, defeating Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers 17-13. It was the only championship game that Lombardi and his quarterback Bart Starr ever lost. 

The game was played on the day after Christmas of that year and it brought great holiday pride to Carr's home community, the coal camp of Kayford on Cabin Creek.

The 1960 Eagles were one of the best teams in NFL history. Among Carr's teammates were notable names such as Chuck Bednarik, Tom Brookshier, Tommy McDonald, Sonny Jurgensen, Norm Van Brocklin, Pete Retzlaff, and Maxie Baughan. 

Prior to the 1964 season, Carr was involved in a blockbuster trade when he and Jurgensen were traded by the Eagles to the Redskins for quarterback Norm Snead. It is considered one of the more one-sided trades of that era.

Carr retired from playing in 1975 and immediately went into coaching. He coached for 25 seasons with the Vikings, Bears, Eagles, Lions, Bills, Falcons and 49ers. He spent much of that time as a defensive coordinator and earned a reputation as one of the best defensive minds in the game.

"I got to the Minnesota Vikings in the fall of 1983 just after Gummy Carr had left the Vikings," recalled former Vikings defensive back Carl Lee last week. "Since he was from West Virginia and so was I, the Vikings staff and players bombarded me with Gummy Carr stories.

"I have never heard of a coach that was more beloved, appreciated and admired by everyone as Gummy Carr was for the Vikings. He was loved and respected by the players, the coaching staff and everyone in the organization. Quite frankly, he was so highly thought of that it made it impossible for anyone to ever follow him as a defensive backs coach.  He must have been something special." 

Carr coached in one Super Bowl with the 1985 New England Patriots. Among the NFL coaches who learned under Carr were Jerry Glanville, Fritz Shurmur, Floyd Reese and current Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

His son, Ken Carr, writes to say that his dad became very strong in his Christian faith at the age of 62 and spent many of his latter years working in his church.  He leaves behind a wife, two children and seven grandchildren.

All in all, it was a life of incredible accomplishment for a kid from Cabin Creek.

Reach Frank Giardina at flg16@hotmail.com.

 


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