NFL Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris has died unexpectedly at the age of 72, just days before his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers were set to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his miraculous playoff catch dubbed the “Inmaculate Reception.”
Harris’ death was confirmed to The Associated Press early Wednesday by his son, who reported the football legend died overnight. The cause was not immediately known.
Harris was a stalwart of the 1970s Steelers teams that won four Super Bowls and became the rage of one of America’s most famous blue collar cities.
Harris was as affable and beloved off the field as he was burly and bruising on it. And while amassing an impressive statistical performance over his career, he will be forever remembered in the annals of football history for his improbable, miraculous catch in the December 1972 AFC Divisional Playoffs against the Oakland Raiders.
His death was certain to stun Steeler nation, coming just days before the team was set to retire his No. 32 and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin marveled about Harris’ catch during a session Tuesday with reporters, according to FoxNews.
“It’s just one of those beautiful things in the history of our game,” Tomlin said. “It’s humbling to be in close proximity to it, to work for this organization, to understand its impact on this organization, the career it spawned in Franco, a gold-jacket career, what it did for them that season in terms of changing the trajectory of that season, what it’s done for this franchise.”
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