PITTSBURGH – Franco Harris, the man behind the Hall of Fame, the bright-eyed man and the author of “The Immaculate Reception,” considered the most iconic play in NFL history, has passed away. He was 72.
Harris’ son Dok told the Associated Press his father passed away overnight. No cause of death has been given.
His death comes two days before the 50th anniversary of the play that helped transform the Steelers from runners-up to NFL elites, and three days before the scheduled Pittsburgh. removed his number 32 in a ceremony at halftime of the game. against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Harris ran 12,120 yards and won four Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s, a reign that began in earnest when Harris decided to keep running in Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw’s final second of the game. knockout match against Oakland in 1972.
When Pittsburgh took a 7-6 lead and faced fourth and 10th from their own 40-yard line and 22 seconds remaining in the fourth inning, Bradshaw stepped back and threw deep to run against French Fuqua. Fuqua and Oakland defensive back Jack Tatum collided, sending the ball back toward the center of the field in Harris’s direction.
While nearly everyone else on the field stopped, Harris kept swinging his legs, snatching the ball just inches above the Three Rivers Stadium near Oakland 45, then swerving past some shrewd Raider defenders to take the ball. gave the Steelers their first playoff win in four decades of the Mons franchise.
“That game really represented our teams in the ’70s,” Harris said after “Immaculate Reception” was voted the best play in NFL history during its 100th anniversary season. league in 2020.
While the Steelers fell the following week to Miami in the AFC Championship, Pittsburgh was well on its way to becoming the dominant team of the 1970s, winning the Super Bowls twice in a row, first after the 1974 and 1975 seasons, and again after 1978 and the 1979 seasons.
Harris, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound packhorse from Penn State, finds himself at the center of it all. He hit the then-record 158 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 16-6 win over Minnesota in Super Bowl IX en route to winning the game’s Brightest Player award. He’s scored at least once in three of the four Super Bowls he’s been in, and the 354 yards of his career dash to the NFL’s biggest stage is still a record nearly four decades later. when he retired.
Born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, on March 7, 1950, Harris played as a team at Penn State, where his main job was to open holes for backyard teammate Lydell Mitchell. The Steelers, in the final stages of a rebuild led by Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll, saw enough in Harris to make him the 13th overall pick in the 1972 draft.
“When (Noll) drafted Franco Harris, he gave the heart to sin, he gave it discipline, he gave it desire, he gave it the ability to win championships in Pittsburgh,” Wide Recipient Steelers Hall of Fame’s Lynn Swann talks about his regularity. roommates on group trips.
Harris’ impact was immediate. He won the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award in 1972 after rushing to claim the team’s rookie record then of 1,055 yards and 10 touchdowns as the Steelers reached post-season for the second time in franchise history.
The city’s large Italian-American community immediately embraced Harris, led by two local businessmen who formed what became known as “Franco’s Italian Army”, a nod to Mr. Harris’s origins are the son of an African-American father and an Italian mother.
The “perfect reception” made Harris a star, although he often prefers to let himself play rather than speak. On a team that features the likes of Bradshaw, defensive player Joe Greene, full-back Jack Lambert and others, the extremely quiet Harris has spent 12 seasons driving Pittsburgh’s attack.
He topped the 1,000-yard javelin eight times in a season, including five times when playing on a 14-match schedule. He added 1,556 dashes and 16 hasty touchdowns in the knockout stages, both of which are second all-time behind Smith.
Despite his picky numbers, Harris insists he’s just one cog in the extraordinary machine that redefines greatness.
“You see, in that era, each player brought their own little piece of the puzzle to make that great decade a reality,” Harris said during his 1990 Hall of Fame speech. “Each one. Each player has their own strengths and weaknesses, each person has their own thoughts, each person has their own method, only each person, each person has their own method. But then it was amazing, it all came together, and it stayed together to make the greatest team of all time.”
Harris also made it a habit to support his teammates. When Bradshaw received what Harris felt was an illegal late hit from Dallas full-back Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson during the second half of their meeting at the 1978 Super Bowl, Harris essentially asked Bradshaw to give it. the ball to him in the next play. All Harris does is sprint 22 yards in the middle – right next to Henderson – to make a touch that gives the Steelers an 11-point lead, they won’t give up their way to a third championship later. six years.
Despite all of his successes, his time at Pittsburgh came to a bitter end when the Steelers cut him after he held out in pre-season training camp in 1984. Noll, who had relied on stomped on Harris for so long, famously replied “Who is Franco?” when asked about Harris’s absence from the team’s camp at Saint Vincent’s College.
Harris signed with Seattle, running just 170 yards in eight games before being made his mid-season debut. He’s retired as the NFL’s third-fastest runner of all time behind Walter Payton and Jim Brown.
“I don’t even think about it (anymore),” Harris said in 2006. “I’m still black and yellow.”
Harris has remained in Pittsburgh after retirement, opening a bakery and being heavily involved with a number of charities, including serving as president of the “Pittsburgh Promise,” which provides college scholarship opportunities to students. Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Harris is survived by his wife Dana Dokmanovich and his son, Dok.