The Immaculate Reception: A Tribute to Franco Harris

“And so, it’s not a thing of how many carries, but were you effective when you did carry.

Franco Harris

On December 20, 2022, Pro Football Hall of Famer Franco Harris passed away at the age of 72  near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was best remembered for his role in the “Immaculate Reception,” during the AFC (American Football Conference) Divisional playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders, on December 23, 1972. Trailing the Raiders by 3 points, quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass with only seconds left in the game. The ball bounced off of another player, Harris caught the ball inches before it hit the turf and ran 40 yards for a touchdown. This play became one of the greatest in NFL history. Harris received numerous awards, including Offensive Rookie of the Year and Super Bowl MVP (Most Valuable Player). He was also key to leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl Championships.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris speaking at event, involving Secretary Gale Norton, past and current National Football League stars, and volunteers from non-profit organization KaBOOM!, Take Pride in America, and The Home Depot, featuring construction of Playground of Hope in southeast Washington, D.C. (NAID 5615746)

Franco Harris was born on March 7, 1950, in Fort Dix, New Jersey, to Cad and Gina Harris. He played high school football for Rancocas Valley Regional High School, and ran for over 2,000 yards and scored 24 touchdowns for Pennsylvania State University. Harris was drafted in 1972 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he played for twelve seasons, going to nine consecutive Pro Bowls. Retiring as a Seattle Seahawk, Harris ended his football career with 12,120 rushing yards, 91 rushing touchdowns, and 9 receiving touchdowns. After his professional football career, Harris joined with a former teammate to establish a business that provided nutritious food for school age children and supported his son with his bid as a third party candidate for mayor of Pittsburgh in 2009. Harris also attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention as a presidential elector for Pennsylvania.

Secretary Gale Norton joining volunteers of National Football League fame, including former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris and former Washington Redskin Darrell Green, far left to right, in helping the non-profit organization KaBOOM! and Home Depot construct the Playground of Hope in southeast Washington, D.C. (NAID 5615811)

The series Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Photographs (National Archives Identifier 173341) contains several photographs of Franco Harris and other professional athletes visiting with President Jimmy Carter at the White House. The series Photographs Documenting the Secretary’s Activities, and Agency Officials, Events, Programs, and Managed Sites (National Archives Identifier 2679097, RG 48) has photographs of Harris and other NFL players contributing to the building of a playground in southeast Washington, DC.

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