Remembering Franco Harris, An Immaculate Pro Football Life
Franco Harris, an NFL Hall of Famer and one of the most storied players in pro football history, died Dec. 21, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. He was 72. His passing comes just days before his No. 32 jersey was to be retired by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Known best for the "Immaculate Reception" during his 1972 rookie season, he became one of the most prolific running backs to play in the league. Below are some highlights from his tenure.
The "Immaculate Reception"
There's no question the play Harris is best known for is the "Immaculate Reception," the final play in a 1971 playoff against the Oakland Raiders. To this day, it is as controversial as it is famous because there remain questions as to whether it was legal based on NFL rules at the time. But the 13-7 win resulting from the play sent the Steelers to the AFC Championship, which they lost to Miami. But the Steelers later went on to win four Super Bowls during the 70s with Harris. The team is one of the most successful in NFL history.
Super Bowl IX, Most Valuable Player
Harris ran for a Super Bowl record of 158 yards, breaking Larry Czonka's rushing record, and went on to be the game's MVP. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards throughout the season and had five touchdowns. Here, he runs past Minnesota Vikings' Paul Krause to help lead the Steelers to a 16-6 win in Super Bowl IX in 1975; it was the first of the team's current six Super Bowl victories.
Super Bowl X, A Repeat of Greatness
Harris went 108 yards in Super Bowl X in 1976 against the Dallas Cowboys. He led in rushing with 82 yards and had a fourth-quarter 26-yard reception. Harris' rushing and some impressive receptions from another Steelers legend, wide receiver Lynn Swann (who was named MVP), led the team to their second Super Bowl victory.
Super Bowl XIII, A Second Cowboys Faceoff
In 1979, the Steelers returned to the championship for a rematch against the Dallas Cowboys. Harris only had 68 rushing yards throughout the game, but a single play locked in the victory for Pittsburgh. In the fourth quarter, on 3rd and nine on the Dallas 22-yard-line, quarterback Terry Bradshaw called an audible and handed off to Harris, who ran for a touchdown giving the Steelers a 28-17 lead. They would go on for a 35-17 victory.
Super Bowl XIV, Making A Legacy
In their last Super Bowl appearance for 15 years, Harris was already the Steelers leading rusher for the eighth straight year with more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns. In this game, he scored the team's first touchdown, scoring in the second quarter, and its last —a one-yard run in the fourth quarter, giving Pittsburgh a 31-19 lead and sealing the game. Again, Harris led with 44 rushing yards.