Franco Harris is responsible for most of the memorable plays in NFL history. So one can’t exactly fault him for wanting to treasure the moment forever.
Along with Terry Bradshaw and “Mean Joe” Greene, Franco Harris played a vital role in the early Steelers‘ dynasty teams. Harris wanted to remember those days so much that he tried hunting down turf from his famous catch — or, as it’s better called, his “Immaculate Reception.”
Franco Harris is a Hall of Fame running back
At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Franco Harris had the perfect bruising frame for a running back in the 1970s. The 13th overall pick in 1972, Harris totaled 12,120 rushing yards and 91 touchdowns in 13 NFL seasons.
All but one of those seasons came in Pittsburgh, the city where Harris quickly established himself as an NFL legend. Harris earned Pro Bowl honors in each of his first nine seasons, seven of which ended with 1,000 or more yards on the ground.
Harris won four Super Bowls in Pittsburgh and is a member of the Steelers’ All-Time Team.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have only retired two numbers and Harris’ No. 32 isn’t one of them. However, the team hasn’t re-issued Harris’ number since he left the Steelers after the 1983 season.
Harris is best known for the “Immaculate Reception”
Although Franco Harris is one of the best running backs in league history, the most famous play of his career actually came on a catch.
Pittsburgh trailed 7-6 with 1:17 left in the AFC divisional round against Oakland. The Steelers faced fourth-and-10 on their own 40-yard line and needed to convert with only 22 seconds left and no timeouts.
Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw heaved a ball toward halfback John Fuqua, who endured a crushing hit from Raiders safety Jack Tatum when the ball arrived.
Franco Harris, who’d blocked on the play as a fullback, caught the ball before it hit the ground and sprinted downfield for a 60-yard touchdown.
Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope named the play the Immaculate Reception that night. The nickname stuck and remains in place nearly 50 years later.
Franco Harris hunted down turf from that famous play
Franco Harris wanted as many reminders of the “Immaculate Reception” as he could have. So much so that Harris studied newspaper accounts and photos to find the exact spot of the field he caught Bradshaw’s pass.
When Harris learned the Steelers intended to replace the playing surface at Three Rivers Stadium, the Hall of Fame running back went on a journey. Harris traveled to the stadium and began replaying the play on the field.
At the time, a stadium crew was working on replacing the surface, Luckily, Harris found the exact piece of turf he was looking for and took it home.
Harris donated part of the turf to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Steelers fans of all ages can properly celebrate one of the most impactful plays in NFL history the next time they go to Canton, Ohio.
Raiders fans, on the other hand, should avoid the exhibit by any means necessary.
- All stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference