NCAA Football

RB Hall of Famer Frank Harris dies: Steelers legend of Immaculate Reception fame turns 72

RB Hall of Famer Frank Harris dies: Steelers legend of Immaculate Reception fame turns 72

Franco Harris, whose Immaculate Reception was a career highlight for the decorated Pro Football Hall of Famer from Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawksdied CBS Pittsburgh confirmed with the family. He was 72. The cause of death was not known.

Harris, who played 12 of 13 NFL seasons with the Steelers after starring at Penn State, was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and a four-time Super Bowl the champion His 91 career touchdowns ranks 11th all-time. He holds several Steelers records, including his franchise-high 11,950 yards.

“It is difficult to find the right words to describe the impact Frank Harris has had on the Pittsburgh Steelers, his teammates, the city of Pittsburgh and Steelers Nation,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II. statement. “Beginning with his rookie season that included the Immaculate Reception, Franco brought joy to people on and off the field for the next 50 years. He never stopped giving in many ways. He touched so many and was loved Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Dana, his son Doc and his extended family at this difficult time.”

Harris was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

“The entire team at the Pro Football Hall of Fame is deeply saddened today,” Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a statement. “We’ve lost an incredible footballer, an incredible ambassador for the Hall and, most importantly, we’ve lost one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever met. Franco not only influenced the game of football, but he also influenced the lives of many, many people in a profoundly positive way.

“Hall of Famers and historians everywhere will tell Frank’s football story forever. However, the story of his life cannot be fully told without including his greatness off the field.

“My heart and prayers go out to his wife, Dana, an equally incredible person, a special friend of Hall’s, and someone who cares so much about Frank’s Hall of Fame teammates.”

Harris was a rookie when he made the Immaculate Catch on December 23, 1972 against Oakland Raiders in one of the most iconic plays in NFL history. Still, his draft into the NFL at No. 13 overall that year was a serious gauntlet. Franco told CBS Sports In April 2021, his “welcome to the NFL” moment came when he took a major hit on special teams during the preseason. Then his regular-season debut against John Madden’s Raiders was a whole different animal, as he described the noticeable uptick in speed and violence “was on a scale I’ve never seen before.” It may have taken Harris a few weeks to settle into the NFL, but once he did, he was off to the races, rushing for 115 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in a Week 5 win over the Oilers.

“First 100-yard game, first touchdown in the NFL,” Harris said of his breakthrough. “And went on to pass for over 1,000 yards and win Rookie of the Year. Who would have thought that? But there were some tough times in my rookie season, and luckily I was able to get through those tough times. Then the rest of the ’70s is really kind of a story… We went from being the worst football team of all time to what I’m going to say — and I know there’s going to be some controversy about this — to the greatest football team of all time.”

The Steelers’ success in 1972 created a buzz around the organization that is still felt today, and Harris was at the center of it all.

“My rookie year was an incredible year,” Harris recalled. “That year [Steelers fans] went crazy Franco’s Italian army jumped out. And then we got all these fan clubs. It generated so much enthusiasm and so many fans. And it still exists in Steelers Nation. It was a pretty incredible rookie year. I don’t know if anyone has had as much fun in their first year as I have. To go from the worst ever to this incredible season, to an incredible fan base, to win our first playoff game the way we won it and go from there. It was a dream rookie season.”

Along with his success with the Steelers, Harris had a collegiate career at Penn, where he still ranks in the top 20 in program history with 2,002 yards.

“Our thoughts are with Frank Harris’ wife, Dana, and we extend our deepest condolences to his entire family, his friends, the Steelers organization and everyone whose lives Frank has impacted,” said Penn State Football Head Coach James Franklin. statement. “His professional career and accomplishments speak for themselves as a Pro Football Hall of Famer, four-time Super Bowl champion and nine-time Pro Bowl selection, but it will be his toughness and team spirit as a Nittany Lion that will be long remembered. Penn Staters. Franco was a true steward of the blue and whites and he will be sorely missed.”

The Steelers will face the Raiders on Saturday, one day after the 50th anniversary of Harris’ catch in the divisional round of the 1972 NFL postseason. Along with the anniversary celebration, the Steelers planned to retire Harris’ number 32 during the halftime ceremony. It is not yet clear whether these plans will be changed following his death.

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