Terry Bradshaw Delivers Emotional Tribute to His Late Friend and Steelers Teammate Franco Harris
Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris came to the Pittsburgh Steelers two seasons after Hall of Famer quarterback Terry Bradshaw did, and they played the next 12 seasons together in black and gold. Together, they made 12 Pro Bowl teams, two All-Pro squads, and won four Super Bowls. They also connected on one of the top three most iconic plays in NFL history, the “Immaculate Reception.” So, when Harris died at age 72 on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, there was no better person to eulogize him on national TV than Bradshaw. And that’s exactly what the QB did in a touching, emotional speech on the FOX NFL Sunday pregame show, with a perfect Terry Bradshaw-Franco Harris tribute.
The Terry Bradshaw-Franco Harris tribute
The FOX NFL Sunday pregame show kicked off a special Saturday Christmas Eve edition with a highlight package of the Immaculate Reception. It concluded with 1972 Terry Bradshaw in joyous disbelief with his hands on his head and Franco Harris fighting through Steelers fans to make his way to the locker room to celebrate with his teammates.
When the cameras came up in the current-day studio, host Curt Menefee recapped the death of Harris on Wednesday while standing next to an already emotional Bradshaw. He passed on his condolences to Harris’ wife, Dana, and his son, Dok, before also offering them to Bradshaw, who remained close friends with his former RB long after both retired in the mid-1980s.
Bradshaw said the two stayed in touch, talking “at least two or three times a year,” since stopping their NFL careers nearly 40 years ago. However, as the Immaculate Reception anniversary approached, Harris and his wife traveled to Los Angeles so Harris and Bradshaw could film a piece on the play. The two couples went out to dinner “barely two weeks ago,” and the old friends and their spouses had an incredible time as they “hoot and hollered,” the former quarterback recalled.
The Terry Bradshaw-Franco Harris relationship was immensely relatable to many of us, according to the QB, who said, “Genuinely, like so many of you out there, that have really good friends — and maybe you don’t see them for a while — and then when you do see them, it’s like you just saw them last night or the day before.”
Bradshaw then continued by extolling the virtues of the universally loved and respected Harris.
“Just a great man. Great personality. Big smile. Great teammate. Never raised his voice. Never pointed the finger, Bradshaw recalled as he choked up. “Someone that I can’t stop thinking about, and won’t for a long time — well, never will stop thinking about him. Just a great man, and I’m gonna miss him. All his friends are gonna miss him.”
Franco Harris’ NFL career
Franco Harris grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs in South Jersey and went on to play college football for the Penn State Nittany Lions.
At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Harris was primarily a blocker, short-yardage, and goal-line back in Happy Valley. But his combination of size, skill, athleticism, and toughness was undeniable, which is why the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him No. 13 overall in the 1972 NFL Draft.
That season, he joined a third-year year signal-caller from Louisiana Tech on the offense, and the Terry Bradshaw-Franco Harris combination helped lead the Steelers to the playoff for the first time in 25 years.
The team success didn’t stop there. In Harris’ third season, the team won the Super Bowl and did the same in his fourth year in the league. After tough campaigns in ’76 and ’77, the Steelers won the big game once again in the ’78 and ’79 seasons.
And from 1972 to his final season in the Steel City, 1983, Harris led the team in rushing every year.
The New Jersey native made nine Pro Bowls, one All-Pro team, the Rookie of the Year Award, and the NFL (now Walter Payton) Man of the Year Award in 1976.
When the proud Italian hung it up in 1984 after one season with the Seattle Seahawks, he had amassed 12,120 rushing yards on 2,949 carries and scored 91 rushing touchdowns. That currently puts him 15th all-time in rushing yards, 12th in attempts, and T-11 in rushing TDs.
And in 1990, one year after his longtime quarterback, the iconic Steelers RB went into the Pro Football Hall of fame, where the Terry Bradshaw-Franco Harris partnership is forever immortalized.