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Hall of Fame Running Back Dies

Sports

Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris | Image by Harry Cabluck/Shutterstock

Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris has died at the age of 72.

Harris played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks but was mostly known for his play with the Steelers in the 1970s, which included miraculously scoring on the Immaculate Reception to defeat the Oakland Raiders in a 1972 playoff game.

On the final play of the game, quarterback Terry Bradshaw heaved a pass down the field that was knocked into the air. As the ball floated toward the ground, Harris sprinted toward it, catching it just before it hit the ground. No one would stop him on his way to the endzone.

That play was voted the best in NFL history in 2020 as part of the league’s 100th-anniversary celebration.

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II released a statement that read, “It is difficult to find the appropriate words to describe Franco Harris’ impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers, his teammates, the City of Pittsburgh and Steelers Nation. From his rookie season, which included the Immaculate Reception, through the next 50 years, Franco brought joy to people on and off the field.”

“He never stopped giving back in so many ways. He touched so many, and he was loved by so many. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Dana, his son Dok, and his extended family at this difficult time,” Rooney continued.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell echoed those words saying, “He was a gentle soul who touched so many in the Pittsburgh community and throughout the entire NFL. Franco changed the way people thought of the Steelers, of Pittsburgh, and of the NFL. He will forever live in the hearts of Steelers fans everywhere, his teammates, and the city of Pittsburgh.”

Harris played 12 years with the Steelers, winning four Super Bowls. He was named Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1972. He was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl IX and still holds the record for career rushing yards in a Super Bowl. He briefly joined the Seahawks for eight games in 1984 but was quickly cut.

His 12,120 career rushing yards are the 15th-most in league history, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

The Steelers plan to retire his number, 32, on Christmas Eve against the Raiders.

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