According to Harris’ son, the former Pittsburgh Steelers fullback passed away overnight on Wednesday (Dec. 21). A cause of death has yet to be revealed.
NFL Hall of Fame President Jim Porter issued a statement regarding Harris’ death. “We have lost an incredible football player, an incredible ambassador to the Hall and, most importantly, we have lost one of the finest gentlemen anyone will ever meet,” Porter said. “Franco not only impacted the game of football, but he also affected the lives of many, many people in profoundly positive ways.”
Harris was drafted by the Steelers with the 13th overall pick in the first round of the 1972 NFL Draft. The fullback was known for his bruising style of play and enjoyed a 13-year NFL career, spending his first 12 seasons with Pittsburgh before playing his final year in the league with the Seattle Seahawks.
During his tenure with the Steelers, Harris won four Super Bowl titles with the team and was named the MVP of Super Bowl IX. He was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1972 and was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, the second most for a running back after Barry Sanders’ record of 10 selections.
He also earned honors such as the NFL Man of the Year award in 1976 and was the league’s rushing touchdown leader that same year. He retired in 1984 with the third-most rushing yards in NFL history at the time and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1990.
Harris’ passing comes just two days prior to the 50th anniversary of ‘The Immaculate Reception,’ named after the the running back’s famous catch to win their divisional playoff game against the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 23, 1972. According to the Steelers, the organization planned to retire Harris’ No. 32 on Saturday (Dec. 24) during a celebration of ‘The Immaculate Reception,’ which he was slated to attend prior to his death.
VIBE sends our condolences to the Harris family.