Franco Harris is a name that resonates strongly with many football fans. He was an American professional football player, a running back in the NFL for 13 seasons. Harris spent 12 of those seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and won four Super Bowl titles with the team. His net worth at the time of his death was $3 million. This article delves into his early life, college and professional career, and his post-NFL activities.
Early Life and High School
Franco Harris was born on March 7, 1950, in Fort Dix, New Jersey, to Cad, a black World War II veteran, and Gina, an Italian native. He had a younger brother named Pete, who also went on to play football. As a teenager, Harris attended Rancocas Valley Regional High School, graduating in 1968.
Harris attended Penn State University from 1969-1971, where he played for the Nittany Lions football team. He finished his collegiate career with a total of 2,002 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns, while catching 28 passes for 352 yards and one touchdown. In 1970, Harris led the Lions in scoring.
Pittsburgh Steelers Rookie Year
In the 1972 NFL Draft, Harris was chosen 13th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers. For his rookie season, he recorded 1,055 yards on 188 carries and rushed for 10 touchdowns. In addition, his first season was marked by the “Immaculate Reception,” one of the most famous plays in American football history. The play occurred in the first round of the playoffs when, in the final 22 seconds of play with the Steelers down 6-7 to the Oakland Raiders, Terry Bradshaw’s pass was deflected away from the intended receiver and landed in Harris’s hand just before the ball hit the ground. Running it to the end zone, Harris gave the Steelers their first-ever playoff victory.
Further Career with the Steelers
Over the course of the next decade, Harris became an integral contributor to the Steelers’ unprecedented success. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in eight seasons, shattering Jim Brown’s record. In tandem with halfback Rocky Bleier, Harris helped the Steelers win four Super Bowl titles, in 1975, 1976, 1979, and 1980. He was named the MVP for the first tournament win, during which he rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries. This made Harris both the first African-American and the first Italian-American to ever be named Super Bowl MVP.
Final Playing Year and Retirement
After his career with the Steelers had come to an end, Harris signed with the Seattle Seahawks midway through the 1984 season. He ended up playing only eight games with the team, gaining just 170 yards before he decided to retire. Although he finished his career 192 yards short of Jim Brown’s record, Harris still managed to come in third at the time with 12,120 yards, and also third at the time in rushing touchdowns, with 91.
Following his retirement, Harris embarked on various endeavors. In 1990, he and his former Penn State teammate Lydell Mitchell opened Super Bakery, a purveyor of nutritious food for schoolchildren. Later, in 2007, Harris was chosen by the real estate investment trust Forest City Enterprises to lead a charitable foundation it had launched.
In early 2011, Harris became a co-owner of the women’s football team, the Pittsburgh Passion. The same year, he worked briefly for the Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Pennsylvania, but was let go due to his comments supporting his former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who was involved in a child sexual abuse scandal. Harris also served on the advisory board of Penn State’s Center for Food Innovation.
Franco Harris’ Legacy
Franco Harris was an accomplished athlete, and his achievements speak for themselves. He was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, an AP First-Team All-Pro in 1977 and an AP Second-Team All-Pro in 1972 and 1975. In addition, he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1972 and AFC Rookie of the Year the same season.
Harris was also known for his philanthropic efforts. After Hurricane Katrina, he helped lead a relief effort to provide food and supplies to those affected. He was also involved in various charities that worked to support underprivileged children.
Franco Harris’ net worth at the time of his death was $3 million. He was an NFL legend and will always be remembered for his contributions to the sport. Harris was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990, and his #32 jersey was retired by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He will be remembered as one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game.