View Full Version : 30 Seconds With Franco Harris: ‘It Was a Great Time to Be in Pittsburgh’

07-21-2012, 02:38 PM
30 Seconds With Franco Harris: ‘It Was a Great Time to Be in Pittsburgh’

Running back Franco Harris helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win four Super Bowls during his 13-year Hall of Fame career. As a rookie 40 years ago, he caught a deflected touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw that instantly became known as the Immaculate Reception; it gave the Steelers their first playoff victory, against Oakland. Harris, 62, appeared at a fund-raiser last month for the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor Foundation at Yankee Stadium.


Do you still get goose bumps when you think about the Immaculate Reception?


I have to admit that catch keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. When people look back at the great success that the Steelers have had the last 40 years and wonder where it all started, well, it all began right there. If not for that catch, all the success that followed might not have ever happened.


What were your thoughts heading into that 1972 season with a franchise that had never won a playoff game?


From 1933 to 1971, the Steelers were the worst team in N.F.L. history, and that’s the team I was going to play for, so I really didn’t go in with so much hope. But that 1972 season was phenomenal, and the fans went crazy. For 40 years, it was like our fans had this pent-up energy and frustration; they never had an outlet to cheer. But that year, it all came out, and in the decade that followed, it never let up. It was a great time to be in Pittsburgh.


When you came out of Penn State, did you think the Steelers would draft your college teammate Lydell Mitchell ahead of you?


I didn’t know who the Steelers were going to pick, but I was hoping it wouldn’t be me. In my wildest dreams, I never would have thought I would have been the first running back taken in the draft that year, I still can’t comprehend that.


What teams were the toughest for you to run against?


During the 1970s, the Houston Oilers, the Oakland Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys were all tough.


What defensive player hit you the hardest?


This is what I always told myself: “Franco, if this guy hits you so hard that you feel it, don’t look up; don’t look at who it is.” I never wanted to know who it was because I didn’t want to get into the frame of mind that hey, I have to watch out for that guy or that guy. So I just never paid attention to it.


What about practicing against the future Hall of Fame defensive players Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount?


They were not allowed to touch me; that was the rule of the land. It was like: Hey, guys, I’m here for Sunday. Don’t beat me up on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.


Who was the best running back of your era?

I would say Walter Payton, no doubt about it. That guy was tenacious. But if you’re looking at different styles, no one was a tougher runner than Earl Campbell. Oh my God, that guy could run.

What are your thoughts on Jerry Sandusky?


It really is bothersome and upsetting. I know Jerry, and it just makes you shake your head. He was there as a graduate assistant when I was there. It just blows your mind. For someone to set up a structure to help kids and then it looked like, allegedly, that he broke that trust, it’s very disturbing.

07-21-2012, 04:37 PM
so many great memories and big plays, I wish I could thank him personally for all he gave and continues to give. He still loves to represent the Steelers and he does it in a classy way. .I don't think there's ever been a prouder Steeler.

07-21-2012, 11:22 PM
Franco Harris: from hesitant fan to Pittsburgh Passion's eager co-owner
July 21, 2012 11:43 am
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette

By Brandon Boyd / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Franco Harris wasn't on the fence after he first heard about the Pittsburgh Passion -- he was looking through it.

Harris, the former star Steelers running back, met a Passion player several years ago in a Giant Eagle and was invited to a game. At first, he was unsure about going.

"I said 'Oh, you know, if I get a chance,' " he said. "And I thought about it and said I would go check it out, but I wanted to be careful in checking it out."

Instead of buying a ticket and going through the gates, Harris decided on a sneaky way of checking out the women's football action -- or at least the sneakiest way possible for a former Super Bowl MVP.

He went around to the back of the stadium and watched through a fence.

"I saw all these balls flying through the air and thought 'man, this looks pretty good.' I was sitting there and the level of play was surprising," he said.

For the next game, Harris watched the action from the sidelines. From there, his relationship with the Passion flourished, and he eventually bought part of the team in 2011.

Harris owns the team along with former Passion player Teresa Conn.

Harris is all-in on the Passion, and the once skeptical Pittsburgh legend is now helping them to create history of their own.

The Passion -- whose highlights include being the first women's football team to broadcast games on a major television network, the first women's football team featured in Sports Illustrated and the first women's football team featured on ESPN -- will become the first team to play host to the Women's Football Alliance national championship at an NFL field.

Harris said Art Rooney II and Dan Rooney, owners of the Steelers, were influential in helping the Passion secure the championship at Heinz Field.

"The Rooneys and their organization have really been great in supporting women's football. It makes you feel good that someone at their level realizes this is a great women's football league," Harris said.

Four teams will be playing today in the semifinals to determine who plays in the championship game Aug. 4. The goal of Harris and the Passion, who were eliminated by the DC Divas earlier in the postseason, is to provide an entertaining day for the visitors.

To reach that goal, they've decided to sandwich football between more football.

"We thought we'd make it a great day about football," Harris said. "Here in Western Pennsylvania, we love our football."

At 10 a.m., the WFA All-Star game will be played at J.C. Stone Field. Five Passion players are on the first team and two players are on the second team.

After a tailgate challenge, the championship game will start at 4 p.m. At 7 p.m., the Passion will present a live screening of the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement on Heinz Field's 96-foot jumbotron.

"You get to see some great football on the field, and then we have a chance to celebrate greatness of the players that played in Pittsburgh," Harris said.

Four players elected into the Hall of Fame -- Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Curtis Martin and Chris Doleman -- have ties to the area.

"This is a big night for Pittsburgh with the Hall of Fame. Don't watch it at home. Come to the stadium and we can all watch it together. We have four great players being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Let's all celebrate together," he said.

"That was really the essence of adding that. How many venues do you get to really honor this occasion in a stadium where Pitt and the Steelers play now? I would love to share that with other people who really love what's happening."

For those still unsure about going to a women's football game, Harris said they only need to look to him to see how one game can make a world of difference.

"All I can say is that the first game I went to, I was skeptical. I became a fan," Harris said. "I just want to tell people to come out and see some great football."

And not through a fence, either.
Brandon Boyd: bboyd@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1724 and Twitter @brandonmboyd.
First Published July 21, 2012 12:06 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/more-sports/from-hesitant-fan-to-eager-owner-645598/#ixzz21K1UQvSx