How did Franco Harris die? Steelers hall of famer cause of death Explained

How did Franco Harris die? Steelers hall of famer cause of death Explained

Franco Harris, a legendary running back for the Steelers, passes away at age 72. Let’s learn more about his passing, what happened to him, and Franco Harris cause of death in this article.

What happened to Franco Harris?

Just a few days before the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception,” the play that gave the Pittsburgh Steelers their first playoff victory, former running back Franco Harris passed away at 72.

Dok Harris, Harris’ son, confirmed his father’s passing to The Associated Press on Wednesday. According to Medico Topics, Harris’ cause of death was not immediately known.

Who was Franco Harris?

Franco Harris, an American football player who played fullback for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks in the National Football League (NFL), died on December 20, 2022.

He played a significant role in one of professional football’s most well-known plays, which Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope nicknamed “The Immaculate Reception.”

He was chosen by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 13th overall choice in the first round of the 1972 NFL Draft after playing college football for the Penn State Nittany Lions.

His first 12 seasons in the NFL were spent with the Steelers, and his final and final season was with the Seahawks. In 1990, he was admitted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Franco’s Early life

In New Jersey’s Fort Dix, Harris was born. During World War II, his father, Cad Harris, participated in the military and was based in Italy. 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. Harris attended Penn State University after earning his high school diploma from Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly Township, New Jersey, in 1968.

Although Harris collected 2,002 yards rushing with 24 touchdowns and averaged almost 5 yards per carry while playing for the Penn State Nittany Lions, he mostly functioned as a blocker for the 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.

Franco Harris cause of death

The Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris, who may have scored the greatest touchdown in NFL history, passed away at the age of 72. Harris’s son Dok told the Associated Press his father died overnight.

Harris passed away just two days before the “Immaculate Reception,” widely recognized as one of the most iconic plays in the history of the National Football League and the game-winning touchdown that gave the 1970s Steelers their first postseason victory, was celebrated on its 50th anniversary. His passing was confirmed by Harris’s family. No specific reason for death has been given.

Professional career of Franco Harris

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.

Super Bowl IX’s Most Valuable Player award

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. Following the 1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979 seasons, the running back duo of Harris and Rocky Bleier helped their team win four Super Bowls with the help of a solid defense. He won Super Bowl IX’s Most Valuable Player award on January 12, 1975, after rushing for 158 yards and a touchdown on 34 attempts to help his team defeat the Minnesota Vikings 16-6. Harris was the first Italian-American and African-American to win the Super Bowl MVP award.

Steelers’ Super Bowl history

For the Steelers, Harris played a significant role in each of their first four Super Bowl victories. His 101 carries for 354 yards in Super Bowls set records, and his four running touchdowns throughout his career are tied for the second-most in Super Bowl history.
Harris was the only player to score a touchdown in each of the Steelers four Super Bowl victories in the 1970s. Harris contends that by avoiding unnecessary contact, he prolonged his career and thereby his contribution to the team’s goals (including four Super Bowl triumphs).

O. J. Simpson’s retirement following the 1979 season made Harris the active player with the most career running yards. When Jim Brown’s NFL rushing record was about to be surpassed by Walter Payton and Harris following the 1983 season, Harris requested a wage hike from the Rooneys. The Rooney family declined because they thought Harris’ career was in decline, and Harris vowed to hold out. In 1984, Harris was cut loose by the Steelers during training camp. He later signed with the Seattle Seahawks for the 1984 campaign. Before retiring, he only played eight games for the team and only accumulated 170 yards, falling 192 yards short of Jim Brown’s record.

Hall of Fame

In his 13 professional seasons, Harris averaged 4.1 yards per carry while gaining 12,120 yards (then third all-time) and scoring 91 rushing touchdowns (then also 3rd). He hauled in 307 catches for 2,287 yards with an average yardage of 7.4 and nine receiving touchdowns. With 12,120 career running yards, Harris is 12th all-time in the NFL, and he shares the top spot with Jerome Bettis with 91 career rushing touchdowns.

In 2006, during pre-game ceremonies for Super Bowl XL (the Steelers’ second Super Bowl appearance and first championship since his retirement), Harris waved a Terrible Towel while being introduced, much to the delight of the overwhelmingly pro-Steeler crowd. Harris and the Rooneys later patched things up. At Steelers team events, alumni meetings, and other events involving his teammates, such as Joe Greene, Harris continues to be a fan favorite. He frequently makes an appearance on each occasion wearing his gold Pro Football Hall of Fame jacket.

Although the Steelers have only officially retired two uniform numbers (Ernie Stautner’s number 70 and Joe Greene’s number 75), it is widely believed that no Steelers player will ever wear the number 32 again because it has not been reprinted since he left the team.
The Steelers announced on September 6, 2022, that they would retire his illustrious number 32 on December 24, 2022.

“Immaculate Reception.” 

At Pittsburgh International Airport, there is a statue depicting Harris giving the “Immaculate Reception.” He was given the American Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award in 1984.

On The Sporting News’ selection of the 100 greatest football players in 1999, he came in at number 83. The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, housed at The Heinz History Center, unveiled a life-size statue of Harris in the Pittsburgh International Airport’s main concourse in 2006. A replica of Harris’ “Immaculate Reception” is depicted in the monument. 2011 saw his induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

Tributes & Condolences to Franco Harris

James Harrison

Remembering Steelers legendary Hall of Famer Franco Harris Just days before the Pittsburgh Steelers plan to retire Franco Harris’ #32 jersey, sources tell Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 the stunning and tragic news that Franco has died. The four-time Super Bowl champion planned to join Steelers fans on the North Shore this week to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception. The statue of Franco became a staple and stopping point at Pittsburgh International Airport. Franco Harris was 72 years old.

Brandy sticker

Wow. Franco Harris has died. So many memories with him. Every year we would dance together at the Super Bakery party. Vegas was funny when Jaimie had no idea who he was Definitely won’t be the same without him. Anniversary of his immaculate reception too

Robert McClain

Growing up in the ’70s a Dallas fan, it was hard to like anything Black & Gold…and I don’t to this day. However, the greatness of Franco and those 1970s Steelers can’t be denied.

Nate Joe DazeSr

Met him when I was a senior in High School. He was the most humble icon you could talk to and gave me advice I’d never forget… “Do Your Thing even if it isn’t popular”.. RIP Legend

Keri Leaman

Awwwww man such a hard loss. Prayers up for Steelers Nation, and all who knew him and loved him.

Ronnie Gonzalez

I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan but have much respect for the Steelers of the 70’s my condolences to the family.

Brian J Hulk

Walter Payton Man of the Year, a true gentleman, first ballot Hall of Famer, and getting the RARE honor of having his Steelers number retired. I wish he could have experienced the week ahead before his passing.

Brian Crawley

Very Heartbreaking to hear this! He and mean Joe was the first Steelers I knew growing up.




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