It was almost a year ago the Steelers announced they were retiring Franco Harris' No. 32 jersey when the Steelers played the Las Vegas Raiders on the 50th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, something that took the Hall of Famer by surprise at that time and warmed his heart.
"In my wildest dream, I never expected it, and it never crossed my mind," said Harris at the time. "It just wasn't something that was top of mind that you think about. You just know Steelers don't retire numbers, so you just don't have any thoughts about it. And so, when (Steelers President) Art (Rooney II) messaged me, I was blown away. I mean that was a wow moment and unbelievable. It is quite an honor to be the first offensive player to have their jersey retired and to be alongside Joe Greene and Ernie Stautner. It's about time we got an offensive guy on there."
Harris passed away on Dec. 20, just days before the team was set to retire his jersey, with the ceremony taking place without the legendary running back who will always be known for the 'Immaculate Reception.'
Before tonight's game against the Bills, the Steelers unveiled Harris' retired jersey display in the FedEx Great Hall, with his wife, Dana, and son, Dok, on hand, along with Art Rooney II, to do the honors.
"I know Franco has a special place in our hearts. He always will," said Rooney. "Today we are here to celebrate a special place at Acrisure Stadium where we will always remember Franco. As we gather here today to unveil a permanent display of Franco's jersey, we are honored to have Dana and Dok with us here and Franco's teammates. Franco would say his jersey would not be retired without so many great teammates in the 70s. Franco was proud of what the teams of the 70s accomplished. He was proud to play on a team whose defense became known as the Steel Curtain. I also know that Franco was proud of what his offense accomplished, and he was very happy that after the franchise was in existence for 90 years, we finally retired an offensive players jersey, No. 32."
Harris was drafted by the Steelers in the first round of the 1972 NFL Draft out of Penn State.
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.
"What was important (to Franco) was the success of this team," said Rocky Bleier, Harris' backfield mate in the 70s. "I dare say to his fellow teammates, it was because of Franco and the impact that he had that allowed us to have the success we had through the 70s."
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 14,234 total yards from scrimmage are also ranked first in team history.
His stats were incredible, but what his family will always remember him for, was his huge heart.
"Art, thank you for this evening," said Dana Harris. "This is lovely. It really means a lot. Franco would be grinning from ear to ear. Some of you would say what took so long, Franco would say this is the right time. No matter what happened and when it happened, it was the right time.
"As I look out, I can't imagine anyone here tonight hasn't been touched by him in some way or form.
"I want you to remember something about Franco. He saw everyone. He saw people on the street. He saw people down on their luck. He touched people. He was there for them. In your hearts, keep him there. To Dok and I, he is still there."
Following the unveiling, both Dana and Dok Harris will serve as honorary co-captains for the game.