Franco Harris, Doc, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that his father died overnight. The cause of death has not been disclosed.
Franco Harris death came two days before the 50th anniversary of the shocking play that transformed the Steelers into the NFL. Elite and three days before Pittsburgh was scheduled to retire his No. 32. At halftime of its game against the Las Vegas Raiders. Harris was busy leading up to the ceremony and on Monday. He gave a media interview about the moment that will forever be associated with him.
“It is difficult to find the right words to describe the impact of Franco Harris on the Pittsburgh Steelers and his teammates. The city of Pittsburgh and Steelers Nation,” team president Art Rooney II said in a statement. “From his rookie season, which included an immaculate reception, to the next 50 years. Franco brought joy to others on and off the field. He never stopped giving back in so many ways. He touched so many people and was loved by so many.
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The real dynasty began when Harris decided to keep running when Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw made a last-minute heave in the 1972 playoffs against Oakland.
Bradshaw drifted back and made a deep throw
With Pittsburgh leading 7-6 on fourth-and-10 from its 40-yard line and facing 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Bradshaw drifted back and made a deep throw to running back Frenchie Fuqua. This time, Fuqua and Oakland defensive back Jack Tatum collided. The ball sailed back toward midfield and flew toward Harris. Replays were inconclusive, and it is not clear who deflected the pass.
After the Immaculate Reception was named the best play in NFL history during the league’s centennial season in 2020, Harris said, “That play really represents our team in the 70s.”
The Raiders were victimized on the spot, but over time they more or less accepted their role in NFL lore. Oakland linebacker Phil Villapiano, who covered Harris on the play, also attended the 40th-anniversary celebration in 2012. Where a small monument was unveiled to commemorate the exact location of Harris’ historical catch. Villapiano plans to attend Saturday night’s jersey retirement ceremony for his former rival-turned-friend and is perfectly fine with the mystery surrounding what happened at 3:29 p.m. on December 23, 1972.
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‘There are so many different angles and things going on. No one will ever be able to figure it out,” Villapiano said.” Let’s leave it like this forever.”
Miami in the AFC Championship
Although the Steelers lost to Miami in the AFC Championship the following week, Pittsburgh was on its way to becoming the dominant team of the 1970s, winning back-to-back Super Bowls after the 1974 and 1975 seasons and again after the 1978 and 1979 seasons and The Pittsburgh were the first team to win the Super Bowl in the 1970s.
And it all began with a play that, in a sense, changed the fate of the franchise and the region.
When Harris announced in September that the team was retiring his number, he said, “I can’t believe it’s been 50 years.” When Harris announced in September that the team was retiring his number, he said, “I can’t believe it’s been 50 years. It really tells you a lot. It means a lot.”
Harris, a Penn State graduate, was the centerpiece of a large, 6-foot-2, 230-pound squad. He won the Most Outstanding Player Award in Super Bowl IX when Pittsburgh defeated Minnesota 16-6, rushing for a then-record 158 yards and a touchdown. He scored at least once in three of the four Super Bowls he played in, and the 354 yards rushing he recorded on the NFL’s biggest stage remains a record nearly 40 years after his retirement.