5 Minutes with Franco Harris

October 1, 2012 – Earlier this season, I sat down with former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris during a charity event benefiting the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor at Yankee Stadium for a “5 Minutes with…” interview that will be published in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.

The Q&A piece with Harris is one of three interviews with Super Bowl MVP’s that will appear in Yankees Magazine over the last two issues.

Harris, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990, is best known for catching the game-winning touchdown in the 1972 AFC divisional playoff contest against the Oakland Raiders. On that play, which was later dubbed the “Immaculate Reception,” Harris scooped a deflected pass and sprinted more than 40 yards down the sideline in the closing seconds of the game.

Forty years later, Harris can still recall how the that epic play unfolded, and how the Steelers ultimately pulled out a 13-7 win at a snowy Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.

“We were facing a fourth down, and I told myself that it was a great season,” Harris said. “I assumed it was going to be the last play of the year.

“We had several receivers in the game, and the play called for me to stay in the backfield to help block,” he continued. “I wasn’t supposed to be part of the play. When [Steelers quarterback] Terry Bradshaw began scrambling, I decided to sneak out of the backfield so that I could be an outlet for him in case none of the receivers could get open. The next thing I knew the ball was in my hands, and I was racing toward the end zone.”

While on the subject of the Immaculate Reception, I asked Harris where the play ranks among the best moments in sports history.

“I think it’s the greatest play of all time because it meant so much to so many people,” Harris said. “Before the 1972 season, Pittsburgh fans felt as if the Steelers always found a way to lose. But in that game, we found a way to win. Every fan base has its favorite moments, and for the Steelers, there is no bigger moment than the Immaculate Reception. It’s something that Steelers fans have identified with for the last 40 years. That play proved that you should never give up.”

At the end of the interview, I asked Harris if he had gotten a chance to know former Yankees star Reggie Jackson, who is a life-long Steelers fan.

“Who’s Reggie Jackson?” Harris responded.

“Um, are you serious?” I asked.

After a few awkward seconds, the stone-faced Harris smiled.

“I’m just kidding,” he said. “He’s been to a bunch of our games over the years, and he’s a good friend. But when you print this article, you should end it with me saying, ‘Who’s Reggie Jackson?’ That will drive him crazy!”

–Alfred Santasiere III

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