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Devastating news to start the day as legendary Steelers Hall of Famer, passed away at the age of 72, only two days before the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception” and three days before the Steelers were set to retire his number.
Harris was one of the most important and impactful players in NFL history not only because of his performance on the field but for how he became a primary figure for the NFL during its rise in the 1970s.
Sports were growing, particularly on broadcast television, during that decade, and the Steelers were leading the way for the NFL. They had many stars on those legendary teams including Mean Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert and Lynn Swan.
But Harris was special, and his “Immaculate Reception” touchdown in the 1972 playoffs against the Raiders was more than an individual moment of greatness.
The play gave the Steelers its first-ever playoff victory and gave rise to his talents and legendary status in both the Steel City and across the league.
It also signaled the arrival of the Pittsburgh Steelers as the NFL’s dominant team of the decade. They won four Super Bowls during that time and solidified their place in sports history.
Franco was a cornerstone of the franchise and one of the main reasons for the Steelers’ dominance.
He was the 13th overall pick in the 1972 NFL Draft and the Penn State running back did not disappoint.
In his rookie season, he rushed for 1,055 yards and 10 TDs. Over his 13-year career, 12 of which were spent in Pittsburgh, he rushed for 12,120 yards and 91 TDs. He also was the 1972 Rookie of the Year, 9x Pro Bowler and 4x Super Bowl champion.
His accolades form a lengthy list of accomplishments.
Franco rushed for 158 yards in Super Bowl IX, leading the Steelers to a 16-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings and their first-ever Super Bowl victory. He rushed for more yards than the entire Vikings team, who could only muster 17 yards against the Steel Curtain. For his Herculean performance, he won Super Bowl MVP.
But he didn’t stop there.
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