Franco Harris – Pittsburgh Steelers Rookie of the Year

LATROBE, PA - JULY 1982: Running back Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers smiles as he looks on from the field during summer training camp at St. Vincent College in July 1982 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, Harris led his Steelers rookie class with 1,055 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns as an NFL rookie in 1972 – winning them their inaugural Super Bowl win two years later.

As part of his creative genius, his inspired leadership produced the Immaculate Reception that propelled the Steelers from also-rans into an NFL powerhouse. Unfortunately, he passed away just days before its 50th anniversary and three days before having his number retired during a halftime ceremony at Three Rivers Stadium.

His Immaculate Reception

50 years ago, Pittsburgh Steelers Hall-of-Famer Franco Harris made one of the greatest NFL plays ever seen with his “Immaculate Reception.” It won them an AFC Divisional playoff game against Oakland Raiders and set them on course towards four Super Bowl championships over 10 years.

With time running out and their lead at 7-6, Terry Bradshaw threw a last-ditch pass that deflected off either Frenchy Fuqua of the Steelers or Raiders defender Jack Tatum before returning backward to Harris for safekeeping.

Three Rivers Stadium witnessed a momentous event which still brings people flocking there today: fans flooded into the stadium in hopes of seeing and celebrating it first-hand.

His zealous fan base

Franco Harris net worth earned fame among Steelers fans thanks to his enthusiastic fan base dubbed, “Franco’s Italian Army.” These fans would dress in military garb and bring helmet liners during home games at Three Rivers Stadium.

Media coverage in 1972 focused heavily on the fan base of a first-round draft pick who executed one of the NFL’s greatest plays – The Immaculate Reception – causing much debate within its ranks and revolutionizing a franchise previously associated with mediocrity at best. That play changed fortunes forevermore.

Franco Harris emerged as the clear winner during his 12-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, appearing in nine Pro Bowls and four Super Bowls while garnering recognition across the NFL as an iconic figure – becoming an inductee into its Hall of Fame along the way. Though we will miss his incredible football skills and dedication to Steelers fans alike, Franco will forever remain remembered fondly in our memories.

His career stats

Harris was an iconic running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers and holds their all-time rushing mark of 11,950 yards. Additionally, he scored 91 touchdowns during his career.

He was an outstanding player, yet always maintained an air of humility and supported his teammates without taking credit for himself.

After graduating Rancocas Valley Regional High School, Harris attended Penn State and played for the Nittany Lions before being selected by Pittsburgh Steelers with 13th overall selection in 1972.

Harris was an integral component of Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain defense that helped them capture four Super Bowls within six years. He crossed 1,000 yards eight times during his career and ran at least 100 yards in 47 different games.

His impact on the game

Harris made headlines immediately in 1972 after winning the NFL Rookie of the Year award with 1,055 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns en route to Pittsburgh’s second postseason appearance since 1946. Pittsburgh’s large Italian-American community, led by two local businessmen who would become known as Franco’s Italian Army, welcomed Harris warmly.

Harris spent much of the 12 seasons following Emmitt Smith’s retirement playing quietly behind the scenes for Pittsburgh, amassing eight 1,000-yard seasons while adding 1,556 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns during playoff games – both all-time records at that point.

Harris was known for being humble, kind, and honorable while playing for the Steelers and being a role model to his peers during his entire career. Additionally, he remained actively involved in his community by serving as chairman for Pittsburgh Promise – providing college scholarship opportunities for Pittsburgh Public School students.