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Franco Harris’ Family Releases Statement Following Harris’ Death

The family of Franco Harris have released a statement following Harris’ death Wednesday morning. Announced via the Steelers’ organization, it reads in full as follows:

“We are truly heartbroken. The reality of losing such a magnificent individual has not yet settled in. We have shared Franco with so many people throughout our lives and in so many ways. Beyond his incredible career with the NFL Franco represents what is best in humanity: kindness, charity, decency, and humility. He led by example on and off the field with the goal of making this a better world for us all. We know he has touched so many of you and we mourn with you. We will remain steadfast in living and achieving the world that he wanted to build.”

Harris died Wednesday morning from causes not currently known. He was 72 years old. His death was a shock to the Pittsburgh and football community. Harris was just days away from attending Saturday’s halftime ceremony to officially retire his #32 jersey, becoming only the third player and first on offense in team history to receive such an honor. Reportedly, the Steelers plan to proceed with the ceremony.

Tomorrow also marks the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception and Harris’ incredible catch and race into the end zone. It was the moment that turned around and propelled the Steelers. After decades of losing, the Immaculate Reception marked Pittsburgh’s first postseason win, their first postseason touchdown, and though they didn’t win the Super Bowl that year, they were on track. By 1974, they hoisted their first Lombardi and by the end of the decade, their trophy case held four of them.

Harris was the Steelers’ first round pick in 1972, rushing for over 1000 yards his first season and winning Rookie of the Year. His career was so much more than the Immaculate Reception and his life was so much more than football. On the field, he rushed for 12,000 career yards and 91 rushing scores. He was at his best in the postseason with over 1500 yards and 16 playoff rushing touchdowns while still holding the record for most collective Super Bowl rushing yards, 354. Off the field, Harris was an activist and involved in the Pittsburgh community. He won the NFL’s Man of the Year Award in 1976 and over the years he worked with programs like the United Way and more recently, programs like Pittsburgh Promise and the Special Olympics.

There’s been no official word on any potential viewing or service for Harris that could allow fans and the Pittsburgh community to pay respects. If that information becomes public, we’ll be sure to share it.

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