Harris' 'Immaculate' play changed things


*The Steelers currently have 22 former players, coaches or contributors in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that number will increase to 23 later this summer when Jerome Bettis is inducted as a member of the Class of 2015. In advance of his induction Steelers.com will share the stories of the 22 Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

*Franco HarrisRunning Back (1972-83)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: 1990

Check out photos of Steelers' Hall of Famer Franco Harris

Franco Harris will forever be remembered for the greatest play not just in Steelers' history, but one recognized by many as the greatest play ever in NFL history, the "Immaculate Reception."

Things looked bleak for the Steelers late in the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff Game vs. the Oakland Raiders at Three Rivers Stadium, trailing 7-6. Facing a fourth-and-10 from their own 40-yard line with just 22 seconds remaining and desperately searching for the team's first ever playoff appearance, it didn't look promising. But they never gave up. While under pressure Terry Bradshaw threw the ball in the direction of Frenchy Fuqua and as it arrived he collided with Raiders safety Jack Tatum, and the ball ricocheted back and Franco Harris miraculously scooped it out of the air and took off running for a 60-yard touchdown reception that gave the Steelers the 13-7 win and a wild celebration ensued.

"It's still as exciting," said Harris. "If you look at the season we had in 1972, after the first 40 years of the franchise, and then to have the incredible season, the team's first playoff win and to win that first one in dramatic fashion really started to change a lot of things. What really made it special and big was the decade that was to come and the importance of the play, setting the tone for winning. We proved that no matter how dire the situation that we can win. All of the things that followed made that play so big and important to Steelers' history."

That play was just the start of Harris' greatness as well. Harris was the Steelers first-round draft selection in 1972, the 13th pick overall, and finished his rookie year with 1,055 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.  He would go on to be the greatest running back in team history.

Harris carried the load for the team for 12 seasons, bringing his powerful style to the ground game, and also playing a key role in the passing game. He is the team's all-time leading rusher with 11,950 yards and leads with 91 rushing touchdowns. He finished his career with 12,120 yards after spending his final season in Seattle.  

He had eight 1,000-yard seasons, and rushed for at least 100 yards in 47 games. Harris added 307 receptions for 2,287 yards, and his net yardage of 14,622 yards ranked as third highest when he retired. 

 "The first day he came to camp, you could see his ability to make people miss," said his late Coach Chuck Noll. "His quickness, his ability to run with the football was something that was very special. Franco really had great vision. Every good runner I knew had that kind of vision, and he had it right from the start. Not only seeing the holes, but seeing the people. You know, a lot of people come in there and they close their eyes when they're running into the line, but Franco had his eyes wide open. He could pick the holes, and knew the cuts to make."

Harris was a member of four Super Bowl championship teams with the Steelers, winning MVP honors for Super Bowl IX when he rushed for 158 yards in a 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings. He also was named to the Pro Bowl nine times, and was All-AFC four times.

The accomplishments throughout his career all came to an amazing end when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. 

"I have to admit when I put that Hall of Fame jacket on, that was the greatest moment of all time," said Harris. "It was like all the football history from the beginning was just absorbed into me with that jacket. That's what that meant. It was quite an experience."

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