Franco Harris, a Hall of Fame running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers who was known for making a miraculous catch against the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Divisional Playoffs in 1972 has died. He was 72.
Harris died just days before the Steelers were going to retire his No. 32 jersey and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception” at Acrisure Stadium. When Steelers coach Mike Tomlin spoke to reporters on Tuesday, he talked about Harris’ catch.
“I was in Section 135 that day. I was eight months old. I think it’s funny. Surprisingly, I’ve probably met 75,000 people that were there that day,” Tomlin said.
“It’s just one of those beautiful things in the history of our game. It’s humbling to be in close proximity to it, to work for this organisation, to understand its impact on this organisation, the career it spawned in Franco [Harris], a gold-jacket career, what it did for them that season in terms of changing the trajectory of that season, what it’s done for this franchise …”
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“There are many things that make it the play that it is and the most significant play in the history of our game. It’s just an honour to be in proximity to it. To know the man involved, to call Pittsburgh home, and so it’s awesome to be a part of and to witness. But at the same time, we understand that we’ve got business, we’ve got present-day business and the best way we can honour him and that is by performing. We’re going to work extremely hard to prepare ourselves leading up to it.”
The shocking news about Harris was first shared by WTAE. The cause of death wasn’t known right away. Dok, Harris’s son, told the Associated Press that his dad died in the middle of the night.
Harris was picked by the Steelers in the first round of the 1972 draught. He had played for Penn State. When he ran for 1,055 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie, he was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. His skill in the Steelers’ offence under legendary coach Chuck Noll made him an important part of the team’s dynasty very quickly.
We have lost an Icon in Franco Harris. He embodied Pgh in his Grace, Humility, & Sense of Pride. He was a Champion on the Field & Ambassador off it. Thank you Franco for setting the standard that we all strive to achieve as a Professional & as a Person. RIP & condolences to Dana. pic.twitter.com/3GtCgOpeOW
— Bill Cowher (@CowherCBS) December 21, 2022
He ran for a total of 12,120 yards, and with the Steelers in the 1970s, he won four Super Bowls. But without his smart play against the Raiders in the 1972 playoffs, there might not have been a dynasty.
The Steelers were behind 7-6 with 22 seconds left in the game. They had a 4th-and-10 from their own 44-yard line. The Steelers won their division with an 11-3 record, and they were racing against the Raiders, who were 10-3-1 and eager to get to the Super Bowl.
Terry Bradshaw took the snap and threw far to John “Frenchy” Fuqua. The running back collided with Jack Tatum, a Raiders defensive back. Somehow, the ball got to Harris, who caught it and ran it back for a touchdown and the team’s first playoff win ever.
Woke up this morning to the devastating news that my friend Franco Harris passed away during the night. One of the kindest, gentlest men I have ever known. He was a great person & great teammate. Hall of Fame player but so much more than that. A tremendous role model for me! pic.twitter.com/OswJ82x7I1
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) December 21, 2022
In 2020, the play was hailed as the best in the 100-year history of the NFL. “That play really represents our teams of the ’70s,” Harris said at the time.
Harris played in the NFL for 13 years, 12 of them with the Steelers and one with the Seattle Seahawks. He retired in 1984. He went to the Pro Bowl nine times and was named an All-Pro once.
He was the most valuable player in Super Bowl IX, and he ran for 1,000 yards or more in eight of his seasons. Follow us only on Lee Daily for more news like this.