Legendary Steelers running back and RV alum Franco Harris dies at 72

The former Red Devil is best known for his “Immaculate Reception” against the Raiders in 1972

Aaron Rigby, Sports Editor

Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris passed away at 72 Tuesday night, just two days before the 50 year anniversary of his legendary play

Harris’ son, Dok, first reported to the Associated Press of his father’s passing late Tuesday evening. Harris’ cause of death is yet to be revealed. 

Franco Harris is nationally known as a legendary NFL running-back for the Pittsburgh Steelers who made an amazing play, dubbed as “The Immaculate Reception” by Steelers sportscaster Myron Cope, that helped push the Steelers past the Raiders in a match played in 1972. 

Principal Martin, Harris and Dr. Heilig presenting Harris with an award at RV

However, many people don’t know that Harris is a New Jersey native who attended Rancocas Valley Regional high School in the late 60’s.

Franco Harris was born on March 7, 1950 in Fort Dix, New Jersey to his mother Gina Harris, and father Cad Harris, a military veteran who served in World War II, and was stationed in Italy. Cad met his wife during his time in Italy, and eventually immigrated to the United States post war. 

Franco attended RV from 1964 until graduating in 1968, then attended Penn State University, where he built his football resume over a three year period in college. 

While playing running-back for the Nittany Lions, Harris tallied 2002 rushing yards, 24 rushing touchdowns, 28 receptions, 352 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown, 150 total points and 2354 receiving yards total. 

What he was able to accomplish in three years in college catapulted his draft stock, earning him a spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers after they drafted him 13th overall in the 1972 NFL draft.

During his 12 year span in the NFL, all seasons spent with the Steelers outside of his final season with the Seattle Seahawks, Harris played a total of 173 games, accomplishing 12,120 rushing yards, 91 rushing touchdowns, nine receiving touchdowns, 307 receptions, 2,287 receiving yards, was once an all-pro team member, nine time pro bowler, four time Super Bowl champion, won a Super Bowl MVP in 1975, won 1972 Rookie of the Year award, 1972 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, 1976 NFl Man of the Year and was a member of the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team. 

Despite all the stats and accolades, most people who knew Harris believe that his empathy is what defined him as a player and person.

“I had the opportunity to meet Franco twice, and on both occasions I was most impressed by his genuineness and his kindness,” said Principal Joe Martin. “He was just a genuinely kind guy.”

Prior to the passing of the legendary running-back, the Steelers had already planned to retire Harris’ No. 32 jersey during their Christmas Eve matchup against the Raiders. According to Steelers.com, the team was going to wear their throwback jerseys on the night, which were reported to have a special patch that honored the 50th anniversary of Harris’ Immaculate Reception. 

Though his passing is unfortunate, he will now get much more, well deserved appreciation during his jersey retirement and will get more attention from younger football fans, hopefully keeping his legacy alive for decades to come. 

“Frano has given back to our school community so much of the past several decades,” said Principal Martin. “He has never forgotten his Mt. Holly roots.”