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Pittsburgh Steelers Franco Harris

Source: George Gojkovich / Getty

Pittsburgh Steelers great Franco Harris whose “The Immaculate Reception,” led to one of the most iconic plays in sports history has passed away. Harris’ son Dok confirmed with The Associated Press that his father passed away overnight. No cause of death was given.

Harris was a star fullback at the University of Penn State before he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 13th pick in the 1972 draft. He would go on to win the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award in after rushing for a then-rookie record 1,055 yards and 10 touchdowns. He would help the Steelers reach the postseason, where the legend of Harris and the Pittsburgh Steelers would begin.

On December 23, 1972, The Steelers would take on their rival Oakland Raiders in only their second playoff game in team history. On a fourth down play with 22 seconds left in the game, Pittsburg quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass to running back John Fuqua. Now what would happen next is debatable to this day.


The ball would hit Raiders safety Jack Tatum (or Fuqua’s hands) and Harris would catch the ball before it hit the ground and go on to score the game-winning touchdown, ending the game 13-7 for the first playoff win in Steelers history. Many others, including then-Raiders Head coach and football icon John Madden, team members, and fans believe that either the ball touched Fuqua or that it hit the ground before Harris caught it. Either situation would have resulted in an incomplete pass by the rules at the time.

The team was scheduled to retire Harris’ number 32 and honor the play that changed their history on it’s 50th anniversary.

While the Steelers would lose their next game, the AFC championship game, 21–17, to the Undefeated Miami Dolphins, the 1972 team would set the for one of the best dynasties in NFL history. Pittsburgh would go on to win 4 super bowls, Back to back in 1974-1975 (Super Bowl MVP (IX)) and again in 1978 and 1979.


For his career, Harris ran for 12,120 yards which was 3rd all-time at the time of his retirement. He would win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (1972), a member of the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, NFL Man of the Year (1976), 9 Pro-Bowls (1972-1980), and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.


Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Colts

Source: George Gojkovich / Getty

Harris is survived by his wife Dana Dokmanovich and his son, Dok.

NFL Hall of Fame Running Back Franco Harris Dead At 72  was originally published on