Steelers Running back Franco Harris dies at age 72
Harris assisted Pittsburgh in winning four Super Bowl championships.
Franco Harris, a running back in the Hall of Fame whose quick thinking produced “The Immaculate Reception,” regarded as the most famous play in NFL history, has passed away. He was 72.
Franco Dok, Harris’ son, stated his father passed away overnight. The reason for death was not disclosed.
Days just before the 50th anniversary of the game that gave the Steelers the boost they needed to become one of the NFL’s finest teams and days before Pittsburgh was set to honor him by retiring his No. 32 all through halftime of its match against the Las Vegas Raiders, he passed away.
Professional Football Hall of Fame President Jim Porter remarked,
“We have lost a tremendous football player, an outstanding ambassador to the Hall, and most significantly, we have lost one of the best individuals anyone will ever meet.” Franco had a profoundly positive impact on many people’s lives in addition to the football game.
Professional career of Franco Harris
With the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s, Harris ran for 12,120 yards and earned four Super Bowl rings. This dynasty started in earnest when Harris continued running during a last-second throw by Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw in a playoff series against Oakland in 1972.
With 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Pittsburgh down 7-6 on a fourth-and-10 from their 40-yard line, Bradshaw drifted back and hit running back Frenchy Fuqua with a long pass. As a result of the collision between Fuqua and Jack Tatum, an Oakland defensive back, the ball careened toward midfield in Harris’ direction.
The Steelers’ first playoff victory in the team’s four-decade history came when Harris kept his legs moving while almost everyone else on the field stopped. Harris grasped the ball just centimeters above the Three Rivers Stadium turf next to the Oakland 45 before outpacing several dumbfounded Raider defenders.
After the “Immaculate Reception” was chosen as the finest game in NFL history during the league’s 100th anniversary season in 2020, Harris commented, “That play really embodies our teams of the ’70s.”
Pittsburgh was on its way to being the dominant team of the 1970s, winning back-to-back Super Bowls twice, initially after the 1974 & 1975 seasons and then once more after the 1978 and 1979 seasons, even though the Steelers lost to Miami in the AFC Championship the following week.
Harris, a great player from Penn State who stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs 230 pounds, found himself in the middle of it all. On his way to receiving the game’s Most Valuable Player Award, he ran for a then-record 158 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 16-6 triumph over Minnesota in Super Bowl IX. In three of the four Super Bowls he participated in, he scored at least once, and almost 40 years after his retirement, his 354 career rushing yards on the NFL’s grandest stage are still a record.
Early Life and achievements of Franco Harris
Harris, born on March 7 in Fort Dix, New Jersey, played college football for Penn State, where his main responsibility was creating openings for his teammate Lydell Mitchell to run through. In the 1972 NFL Draft, Harris was selected with the 13th overall pick by the Steelers amid a reconstruction under Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll.
The Steelers Superstar wide receiver Lynn Swann praised Franco Harris as giving the offense “heart, discipline, determination, and the potential to achieve a championship in Pittsburgh” when Noll selected him in the first round of the draught.
Harris had an instant effect. Following his 1,055 yards with 10 touchdowns of rushing in 1972, when the Steelers made the playoffs for just the 2nd attempt in the team’s history, he was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Year.
Because Harris is the offspring of an Italian mom and an African-American father, the city’s sizable Italian-American community welcomed him warmly. Two local businessmen established what became known as “Franco’s Italian Army” in honor of Harris’ heritage.
Franco Harris’ Life post-football
Notwithstanding his accomplishments, his tenure in Pittsburgh came to a bitter end when the Steelers released him after he refused to participate in training camp before the 1984 season.
Harris joined Seattle and ran for only 170 yards in eight matches before letting go in the middle of the season. He retired as the third-most prolific runner in NFL history, trailing only Jim Brown and Walter Payton. Harris stated in 2006, “I don’t even think about that anymore.” I remain in black and gold.
Following his retirement, Harris stayed in Pittsburgh, started a bakery, and became deeply involved in several organizations. He served as chairman of “Pittsburgh Promise,” which offers Pittsburgh Public School children the chance to receive college scholarships.
Dok and his wife Dana Dokmanovich, who Harris left behind, are still alive.