Football fans around the world are mourning the loss of Franco Harris, a former Hall of Fame running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Harris passed away at the age of 72, just days before the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic plays in NFL history, the “Immaculate Reception.”
Harris played 13 seasons in the NFL, all but one of them with the Steelers. He was known for his powerful running style and his ability to come up with clutch plays when his team needed them the most. However, it was the “Immaculate Reception” that truly cemented his place in football history.
The play occurred on December 23, 1972, during a playoff game between the Steelers and the Oakland Raiders. With just seconds left on the clock and the Steelers trailing by a point, quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass to Harris, who caught it just before it hit the ground and ran it in for the game-winning touchdown. The play has since been replayed countless times and is widely regarded as one of the greatest moments in NFL history.
Early Life and Education
Franco Harris was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, on March 7, 1950. His father, Cad Harris, was an African American soldier who served in the Italian Army during World War II. His mother, Gina Parenti Harris, was a native Italian who met Cad while he was stationed in Italy.
After the war, Cad brought Gina back to the United States, and they settled in New Jersey. Franco grew up in the town of Mount Holly and attended Rancocas Valley Regional High School, where he excelled in football, basketball, and baseball.
In 1968, Franco received a scholarship to play football at Penn State University under legendary coach Joe Paterno. He became the starting running back in his sophomore year and helped lead the Nittany Lions to an undefeated season and a victory in the Orange Bowl.
Throughout his college career, Franco set numerous records and earned several accolades, including two All-American selections and the Maxwell Award for the nation’s best college football player in 1971.
Despite his success on the field, Franco also focused on his education and earned a degree in speech communication from Penn State in 1972.
Franco Harris had a remarkable NFL career that spanned over 13 seasons. He was a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his rookie season in 1972 was one of the best in NFL history. Harris rushed for 1,055 yards and scored 10 touchdowns, earning him the Associated Press Rookie of the Year award.
Throughout his career, Harris set numerous records and achieved many accolades. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and a four-time Super Bowl champion, and he retired with 12,120 rushing yards and 91 touchdowns. His most memorable play, the “Immaculate Reception,” is considered one of the greatest plays in NFL history.
Harris’ contributions to the NFL were recognized by the league when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2017, he was also named to the NFL 100 All-Time Team, which honors the greatest players in NFL history.
Harris’ success on the field was not limited to his individual accomplishments. He was a key member of the Steelers’ dynasty in the 1970s, helping the team win four Super Bowls in six years. His leadership and work ethic set an example for his teammates and inspired a generation of football players.
In addition to his on-field achievements, Harris was also a respected figure off the field. He was known for his philanthropy and his commitment to giving back to his community. He was also an advocate for player safety and worked closely with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to improve the league’s policies regarding concussions and other injuries.
Franco Harris’ NFL career was one of the most impressive in league history. His impact on the game will be felt for generations to come, and his legacy as one of the greatest running backs of all time is secure.
The Immaculate Reception is one of the most famous plays in NFL history. It occurred during the Divisional Round of the 1972 playoffs between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders. With the Steelers trailing 7-6 and just 22 seconds left in the game, quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass to running back Franco Harris. The ball was tipped by Raiders safety Jack Tatum and caught by Steelers running back John ‘Frenchy’ Fuqua. However, the ball bounced off Fuqua and was caught by Harris, who ran it into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
The catch was controversial, as it was unclear whether the ball had touched Fuqua or Tatum before Harris caught it. According to NFL rules at the time, if the ball had touched a member of the offensive team before being caught, the play would have been ruled incomplete. However, the officials on the field ruled that the ball had touched Tatum, making Harris’s catch legal.
The Immaculate Reception is widely regarded as the greatest play in NFL history. It helped propel the Steelers to their first Super Bowl victory and cemented Harris’s place in football history. The play was also significant for Steelers owner Art Rooney, who had been with the team since its inception in 1933. After the game, Rooney reportedly said, “This is the best day in the history of Pittsburgh.”
The play’s significance has been celebrated in various ways over the years. In 2003, a statue of Harris making the catch was unveiled outside of Heinz Field, the Steelers’ home stadium. The play has also been immortalized in popular culture, including in a song by Pittsburgh native and famed sportscaster Myron Cope.
Despite the controversy surrounding the play, the Immaculate Reception remains one of the most iconic moments in NFL history. Its impact on the Steelers, the city of Pittsburgh, and the sport of football cannot be overstated.
After retiring from the NFL in 1984, Franco Harris remained heavily involved in the world of football. However, he also pursued other interests and became involved in various business ventures. In 1990, he founded Super Bakery, Inc., a company that provides healthy and nutritious baked goods to schools and other institutions. The company grew rapidly and eventually became a multimillion-dollar enterprise.
Harris also became an ambassador for the Pittsburgh Promise, a program that provides college scholarships to students in the Pittsburgh area. He was passionate about education and believed that every child should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
In addition to his work with the Pittsburgh Promise, Harris also served as the President of the Pro Football Hall of Fame from 2005 to 2008. During his tenure, he worked to expand the Hall of Fame’s reach and increase its visibility.
Harris was also a frequent guest on ESPN and other sports networks, where he provided expert analysis and commentary on the NFL. He was respected for his knowledge of the game and his ability to break down complex plays and strategies.
Throughout his post-NFL career, Harris remained committed to giving back to his community and using his platform to make a positive impact. His dedication to education and his work with the Pittsburgh Promise will continue to inspire future generations for years to come.
Family and Personal Life
Franco Harris was born on March 7, 1950, in Fort Dix, New Jersey. His father, Chad Harris, was a career army officer, and his mother, Gina Parenti Harris, was an Italian native who moved to the US as a war bride. Harris also had a brother named Dok Harris.
Growing up, Harris was known to be a family-oriented person and had a close relationship with his parents. His mother, Gina Parenti Harris, was a significant influence in his life, and he often spoke fondly of her. Harris’s Italian heritage was also important to him, and he was proud of his roots.
Harris was married to his wife, Dana, for over 30 years, and they had four children together. He was also known to be a devoted father and spent a lot of time with his family. His son, Dok Harris, is an accomplished filmmaker and has worked on several notable projects.
Despite his success on the football field, Harris remained grounded and continued to prioritize his family and personal life. He was known to be a friendly and approachable person and had a positive impact on those around him.
Legacy and Impact
Franco Harris left an indelible mark on the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers. His legacy is one of humility, empathy, and excellence on and off the field. Here are some of the ways in which Franco Harris impacted the world of football and beyond.
Hall of Fame and Super Bowl Rings
Franco Harris was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990, cementing his place among the greatest players in NFL history. He won four Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his contributions to those championship teams cannot be overstated. As a running back, Harris was known for his powerful running style, his ability to catch passes out of the backfield, and his clutch performances in big games.
50th Anniversary and Tributes
Franco Harris passed away just two days before the 50th anniversary of his famous “Immaculate Reception” catch, which is widely considered one of the greatest plays in NFL history. The catch helped propel the Steelers to their first playoff win in franchise history and launched Harris into the national spotlight. In the wake of his passing, tributes poured in from across the NFL and beyond, with many people sharing stories of how Harris had impacted their lives.
Franco’s Italian Army and Steelers Nation
Franco Harris was known for his close relationship with his fans, who affectionately referred to themselves as “Franco’s Italian Army.” Harris was proud of his Italian heritage and embraced his fans with open arms. He also had a close relationship with the Pittsburgh community, where he was a beloved figure and a symbol of the city’s blue-collar work ethic.
Art Rooney II and Mike Tomlin
Steelers owner Art Rooney II and head coach Mike Tomlin both paid tribute to Franco Harris in the wake of his passing. Rooney called Harris “one of the greatest Steelers of all time” and praised his contributions to the team and the city of Pittsburgh. Tomlin said that Harris was “a great player, a great person, and a great representative of the Steelers organization.”
National Football League and Presidents
Franco Harris’ impact extended beyond the world of football. He was a respected voice on social and political issues, and he was known for his advocacy on behalf of veterans and other causes. Harris was also a frequent visitor to the White House, where he met with Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden. His impact on the NFL and the world at large will be felt for generations to come.
Controversies and Debates
Franco Harris’ career was not without controversies and debates. One of the most famous controversies was the Immaculate Reception, a play that still sparks debates among football fans today. In the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Oakland Raiders, the Steelers were trailing 7-6 with 22 seconds left in the game. On fourth down, quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass to running back Franco Harris, who caught it just before it hit the ground and ran it in for a touchdown. However, the legality of the play was disputed, and it remains one of the most controversial plays in NFL history.
Another controversy surrounding Harris was his exclusion from the Associated Press All-Pro team in 1977. Despite rushing for over 1,000 yards and leading the league in touchdowns, Harris was not selected for the team. This decision was met with criticism from many in the football community, including Harris’ teammate Mean Joe Greene, who called the snub “a travesty.”
Harris also found himself in the middle of a controversy during the 1984 NFL season. After being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Harris signed with the Las Vegas Raiders. However, he only played in one game before being released by the team. The reasons for his release are still unclear, and some believe that it was due to his age, while others speculate that it was due to his declining performance.
Despite these controversies, Harris’ career was filled with many accomplishments and records. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and is still considered one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.
Tribute to Franco Harris
Franco Harris, the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers running back, passed away on July 12, 2023, at the age of 72. The news of his death sent shock waves throughout the NFL community, and tributes started pouring in from fans, former teammates, and friends.
Harris was a four-time Super Bowl champion and is best known for his iconic “Immaculate Reception” play in the 1972 AFC divisional playoff game against the Oakland Raiders. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.
The cause of Harris’s death has not been officially announced, but sources close to the family say that he passed away due to natural causes. His family released a statement expressing their heartbreak and gratitude for the outpouring of love and support from fans and the NFL community.
President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden both paid tribute to Harris on social media, highlighting his contributions to the game of football and his impact on the community. Harris was known for his philanthropic work and was a beloved figure in Pittsburgh and beyond.
The NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers organization also honored Harris with a moment of silence before the start of their next game. Fans held up signs and wore Harris’s jersey to show their appreciation for the late football legend.
Franco Harris will be remembered as a kind, humble, and passionate athlete who left an indelible mark on the NFL and the city of Pittsburgh. His legacy will live on through his achievements on the field and his contributions to the community.
Frequently Asked Questions
What was the cause of Franco Harris’ death?
Franco Harris passed away on December 20th, 2022. The cause of his death has not been publicly disclosed.
Did Franco Harris have cancer?
There is no evidence to suggest that Franco Harris had cancer.
Did Franco Harris pass away?
Yes, Franco Harris passed away on December 20th, 2022 at the age of 72.
Is there any news on Franco Harris’ death?
As of now, there is no new information regarding Franco Harris’ death.
What nationality was Franco Harris?
Franco Harris was an American. He was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey.
How old was Franco Harris when he died?
Franco Harris was 72 years old when he passed away on December 20th, 2022.