What did franco harris do after football ? Franco Harris, the Hall of Fame running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers whose shoestring catch known as the “Immaculate Reception” in 1972 remains one of the most memorable moments in N.F.L. history, died on Tuesday night at his home in Sewickley, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh. He was 72.
His death was confirmed by his son, Franco, who is known as Dok. He said that he did not know the cause.
Harris’s death comes days before the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception,” which Mike Tomlin, the current Steelers head coach, said this week was “the most significant play in the history of the game.”
The Steelers plan to retire Harris’s jersey number, 32, during a halftime ceremony at their game in Pittsburgh on Saturday against the Las Vegas Raiders. It would be only the third number in team history to receive that honor. (The others belonged to Ernie Stautner and Mean Joe Greene.)
Pittsburgh Steelers legend Franco Harris, known for ‘Immaculate Reception,’ dead at age 72
Pittsburgh Steelers great Franco Harris, who was arguably best known for one of the most iconic plays in NFL history – dubbed the “Immaculate Reception” – has died at the age of 72, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday.
Harris died overnight, the Hall of Fame said, citing his family. The cause of his death hasn’t been announced.
“We have lost an incredible football player, an incredible ambassador to the Hall and, most importantly, we have lost one of the finest gentlemen anyone will ever meet,” said Hall of Fame President Jim Porter.
“Franco not only impacted the game of football, but he also affected the lives of many, many people in profoundly positive ways.
“The Hall of Fame and historians everywhere will tell Franco’s football story forever. His life story can never be told fully, however, without including his greatness off the field.”
‘A gold jacket career’
Harris died days before the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception,” a game-winning touchdown catch which led the Steelers to victory over the then Oakland Raiders 13-7 for Pittsburgh’s first-ever playoff game in the 1972 AFC Divisional Round.
“That play really represents our teams of the ’70s,” Harris recalled after the reception was voted the greatest play in NFL history in 2020 during the league’s 100th anniversary season.
The Steelers had planned to retire Harris’ number 32 jersey during halftime of their game against the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday.
“The career that it spawned in Franco, a gold jacket career,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday.
“What it did for them that season in terms of the trajectory of the season. What it’s done for this franchise. There’s many things that make it the play that it is. The most significant play in the history of the game.”
Drafted out of Penn State as the 13th pick in the 1972 NFL Draft, Harris quickly became a star for the team, winning the NFL’s Rookie of the Year after becoming only the fourth rookie in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards.
In his career, Harris was a four-time Super Bowl champion, winning MVP honors in Super Bowl IX after rushing for 158 yards in the game against the Minnesota Vikings to help the Steelers capture their first-ever league title.
Running back Harris retired after 13 seasons – 12 with the Steelers and one with the Seattle Seahawks.
Who Was Franco Harris? Revisiting the Life of Former Pittsburgh Steelers Great
Name, Harris went on to have a successful NFL career following what was one of the greatest plays in NFL history.
We’ll get to his career in the NFL in a moment, but first, we’ll see who he was before he made it there.
Who Was Franco Harris Prior to the NFL?
Harris, the son of a World War II veteran and an Italian immigrant, played high school football at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly Township in New Jersey. Growing up right next to the school, Harris finished his high school playing days by being named an All-American.
After showcasing what kind of talent he had, Harris went on to play for Penn State University. He played in a split backfield role with running back Lydell Mitchell, often serving as his lead blocker in 1971, Mitchell’s All-American year. Harris had his own success at the collegiate level running the football, finishing with 2,002 yards and 24 touchdowns.
A lot can be said for Harris’ success at the pro level thanks to the opportunities he received in college, playing for legendary head coach Joe Paterno in games like the 1970 Orange Bowl and 1972 Cotton Bowl.
When and Where Was Harris Selected in the NFL Draft?
With the 13th overall pick in the 1972 NFL Draft, the Steelers chose a Penn State running back. No, it wasn’t Mitchell, who had the more successful college career. Pittsburgh opted instead for Harris, the first of 20 selections in the Steelers’ 1972 draft class.
What were Franco Harris’ feats on the football field?
Harris played most of his 13 seasons for the Steelers and was named NFL Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press in 1972. He went on to help the Steelers clinch four Super Bowl victories from1974 to 1979, led by quarterback Terry Bradshaw.
After setting records at Penn State, Harris played in nine consecutive Pro Bowls with the Steelers and ran for more than 1,000 yards in eight of his seasons, amassing a career total of 12,120 yards. He also was a key player in one of the most famous plays in NFL history that one sports announcer dubbed the “Immaculate Reception.”
Harris died of natural causes at age 72 just three days before last year’s 50th anniversary of that play.
Rich Bryam, a Rancocas Valley High School teammate from the Class of 1968, said it took all the school’s coaches to convince Harris’ mom to let him play ball.
“They were involved in the early development of super star Franco Harris’ enviable skills — whether on the field or in his academic and social life. He was, indeed, a special person…”
Which former NFL players came to help honor Franco Harris?
Among the former NFL players attending the event was Lydell Mitchell of the Baltimore Colts, a Salem County native, close friend and Penn State teammate of Harris. He later became Harris’ business partner in Super Bakery of Pittsburgh and also partnered with him to rescue Parks Sausage Company, the first major Black-owned business to go public.
“We became dear friends. He was truly the best and the kindest person I have ever been around,” Mitchell explained.
Colts player Joe Washington and Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Jon Runyan also came.
Runyan was also a U.S. congressman for four years, representing New Jersey’s third district.
Burlington County Commissioner Deputy Director Tom Pullion said Franco Harris epitomized greatness with both his deeds and exceptional character.
“His exploits on the gridiron thrilled and inspired generations of football fans and made Mount Holly and Burlington County known across the nation. Off the field, he was a humanitarian who never failed to give back to his adopted city of Pittsburgh or to Mount Holly, his forever home.”
Harris was instrumental in initiating Mount Holly Pro Day, an annual charity event attended by professional athletes to benefit various local youth athletic and township recreation programs. This year’s fundraiser was held immediately after the Mount Holly ceremony at neighboring Deerwood Country Club in Westampton.
A fan favorite, he developed his own fan base, known as “Franco’s Italian Army.” Frank Sinatra was among his fans.
Harris also was the first Italian-American and the first African-American to be named a Super Bowl MVP and easily was chosen to become a member of the NFL Hall of Fame in 1990.
In a joint statement five of his siblings said their brother appreciated the start he got in Mount Holly and insisted on family gatherings in the home where they were raised.
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