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Farewell, Franco Rest in Peace

By Paula Green

Hang onto your hats; here come the Steelers out of the huddle. Twenty-two seconds remaining. It’s down to one big play, fourth down and 10 yards to go. Terry Bradshaw at the controls. And Bradshaw…running out of the pocket, looking for somebody to throw to, fires it downfield, and there’s a collision! And it’s caught out of the air! The ball is pulled in by Franco Harris! Harris is going for a touchdown for Pittsburgh! Harris is going…five seconds left on the clock. Franco Harris pulled in the football; I don’t even know where he came from! – Jack Fleming, on the Steelers radio broadcast

Aah, the Immaculate Reception. By now we all know that Franco Harris was the running back, who scored this miraculous touchdown on December 23, 1972, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. The renowned touchdown is No. 1 on the “NFL 100 Greatest” ranking of the top 100 Plays in NFL history.

Fifty years later, we are still talking about it, and on December 24, 2022, a celebration took place at Acrisure Stadium, where the “Immaculate Reception” was commemorated and Franco Harris had his number 32 jersey officially retired. Sadly, Franco was missing from the celebration. Harris died three days prior to the event. His sudden, untimely death stunned fans, who loved him. And he loved them right back.

The Steelers acquired Harris in the first round of the 1972 NFL Draft, the 13th overall pick out of Penn State. He went on to play 12 successful years with the Steelers. He was named rookie and the year in 1972 and Super Bowl MVP in 1975. Harris was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. Many feel that his Immaculate Reception play was the spark that launched the Steeler’s Dynasty.

But as great Harris was on the field, he was equally a champion off the field. Harris was on the board of the Pittsburgh Public School’s Pittsburgh Promise. Two of his numerous charity drives were supporting the LIHEAP power support programs in Pittsburgh and collaborating with the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor Foundation in New York City. He was also involved with Special Olympics and The Glimmer of Hope, a Western Pennsylvania breast cancer foundation.

Despite his sudden passing, the beautiful memories of Franco will live on through his legacy as a Steeler and humanitarian. May he rest in peace!



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