Hall Of Famer Franco Harris Passes As President Biden Voices Tributes
Days before of the 50th anniversary of the greatest football play in history, Franco Harris, an NFL Hall of Famer, passed away at the age of 72.
His miracle was a spark of hope for Pittsburg fans and sports lovers alike. In the 102-year history of the NFL, the Steelers have produced some of the best players & Franco was one of them.
In New Jersey’s Fort Dix, Harris was born. His father, black soldier Cad Harris, served in World War II and was based in Italy at the time.
His mother, Gina Parenti Harris, an Italian native who later became a “war bride,” immigrated to the United States with her husband when the war was over. In 1968, Harris completed his high school education at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly Township, New Jersey.
He then enrolled at Penn State University, where he participated in football with the Nittany Lions.
He averaged nearly five yards per carry while rushing for 2,002 yards and 24 touchdowns while serving mostly as a blocker for All-American running back Lydell Mitchell.
He also caught 28 passes for 352 yards and another touchdown. In 1970, he was the team’s top scorer.
Harris was awarded the league’s Rookie of the Year in his first year with the Steelers (1972), according to both The Sporting News and United Press International.
He carried the ball 188 times for 1,055 yards throughout that season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He scored touchdowns on the ground 10 times and through the air four times.
His admirers, which included “Brigadier General” Frank Sinatra, referred to themselves as “Franco’s Italian Army” and donned army helmets bearing his number.
He was well-liked by Pittsburgh’s sizable Italian-American community. From 1972 to 1980, Harris was selected for 9 straight Pro Bowls. In 1977, he was also named All-Pro. In eight seasons, Harris broke Jim Brown’s record for most rushing yards with more than 1,000.