The Immaculate Reception | 50 Year Anniversary

Celebrating the 50-year anniversary of ‘The Immaculate Reception’ December 23, 1972. Voted the “Greatest Play in NFL History” for the league’s 100th anniversary.

THREE RIVERS STADIUM
Opened on July 18, 1970. Home to the Pirates, who won two World Series, and the Steelers, who won four Super Bowl Championships, creating Pittsburgh’s “City of Champions” identity. It was the site of Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th hit, September 30, 1972, and Franco Harris’ legendary “Immaculate Reception,” December 23, 1972. A multi-use facility, it also hosted many concerts and special events prior to demolition on February 11, 2001.
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“The thoughts that come into your mind during a game can have an effect on the game, and going into the huddle I remember telling myself ‘Franco, this will probably be the last play of the season, play it to the end.’ You learn from this play, you never give up.”

Franco Harris

Two videos of the monument dedication ceremonies held 10-years ago:

Players share their memories of the Immaculate Reception in Pittsburgh – Frenchy Fuqua

Players share their memories of The Immaculate Reception 40-years later at Stage AE in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with MC Bob Pompeani on December 22, 2012. During the League’s 100th season and lead-up to Super Bowl XLIV the “Immaculate Reception” was voted the Greatest moment in NFL history!

Immaculate Reception 40 Year Dedication

40-year Dedication ceremony of the Immaculate Reception monument on the original Three Rivers Stadium spot next to Heinz Field with Bob Pompeani as MC. Voted greatest moment in NFL history leading up to Super Bowl 54 and the commemoration of the league’s 100th season.

FRANCO’S ITALIAN ARMY
Fan Club

The Steelers were one of the most underwhelming franchises in NFL history until Dec. 23, 1972. They only had five winning seasons in their first four decades, and had made the playoffs just once, in 1947 when the Steelers lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 21-0. In 1972, the Steelers put together an 11-3 record and won their first AFC Central Division title. Harris, fresh out of Penn State, rushed for 1,055 yards, scored 11 touchdowns and was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. A fan club, Franco’s Italian Army, emerged and inducted Frank Sinatra into its membership. Tickets were hard to come by, and the game was not shown on live television in Pittsburgh because, per NFL rules at the time, home games were blacked out even though there was a sold-out crowd of 50,327 at Three Rivers Stadium.

Paul Guggenheimer | Steelers greats recall The Immaculate Reception as it turns 50 | Triblive | December 18, 2022
The spot where it happened 50 years ago is located just outside Acrisure Stadium

Hang onto your hats! Here come the Steelers out of the huddle. Terry Bradshaw at the controls. Twenty-two seconds remaining, and this crowd is standing. Bradshaw, back and looking again. Bradshaw running out of the pocket, looking for someone to throw to, fires it downfield, and there’s a collision! It’s caught out of the air! The ball is pulled in by Franco Harris!! Harris is going for a touchdown for Pittsburgh! Harris is going! Five seconds left on the clock!! Franco Harris pulled in the football, I don’t even know where he came from!!”

Steelers play-by-play announcer Jack Fleming’s live radio description

Leading up to today’s 50-year anniversary celebration, Franco passed away.

R.I.P. Franco Harris March 7, 1950 – December 21, 2022 – 72 years old

“Before Franco, we hadn’t done very much. After Franco, we didn’t do much, either. But during Franco, we did a lot.”

Joe Greene

“He’s just a special man. Forget the player. Obviously, I never knew the player. I know the man. Just what an awesome representation of this organization, this community, a guy that embraces all the responsibility that comes with being him. I just admire his passion for Pittsburgh and young people.”

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin
The Harris family released a statement Thursday afternoon that reads:

“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 in 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.”

The Harris Family | December 22, 2022

“If he had passed away a year ago, or a year from now, it wouldn’t have had the same impact. Put it in perspective. They’re ready to retire his number. Thousands of people are coming in for it. The Raiders are here to play on the anniversary of the Immaculate Reception. All of those forces coming together, how do you top that? How? You die.”

Rocky Bleier, Harris’ backfield running mate
More:

Steelers fans can attend Franco Harris viewing at Acrisure Stadium
December 23, 2022
– Steelers fans can pay their final respects to Franco Harris from 1-5 p.m. Tuesday at the PNC Champions Club at Acrisure Stadium. Stadium parking lots will open at 11 a.m. The Harris family also said fans can commemorate Harris by making a memorial contribution to Pittsburgh Promise at www.pittsburghpromise.org or the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor Foundation at www.franciscanfoundation.org

Penguins wear No. 32 on helmets in honor of Franco Harris
December 22, 2022 – The Penguins paid tribute to Steelers great Franco Harris, who died Wednesday at age 72, by wearing No. 32 decals on their helmets for a home game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena. The team played a tribute on the arena video board before faceoff and held a moment of silence.

“We are all stunned and saddened by the passing of the great Franco Harris — a Pittsburgh icon and a true champion on and off the field. Franco will be remembered for his grace, his humility, his kindness, and his tremendous contributions to our community. Rest in peace.”

Statement Issued by Franchise icon Mario Lemieux

Before Immaculate: Inside Franco Harris’ journey from Army aspirations to budding NFL star
December 23, 2022 – The concept of playing football beyond high school originally never occurred to the late Franco Harris. The son of a World War II veteran and a first-generation Italian mother, Harris’ goal growing up in South Jersey in the 1950s and 60s was to follow in the footsteps of his father, Cad, and enlist in a branch of the military. But while Franco was attending Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly, N.J., his older brother, Mario, began playing defensive tackle at Glassboro State, now known as Rowan University.
Now, 50 years after the Immaculate Reception and just weeks before his death, Harris remembered how Penn State was a key intermediate period in his life. Instead of preparing for combat in the Vietnam War, he was working out on the Nittany Lions’ practice fields and taking classes. [Franco’s birthday of March 7, 1950 drew a low number — 122 — in the 1969 draft lottery]

“It was quite an experience, especially for someone growing up and never thinking about college, knowing that it wasn’t part of the mix. We were a military family. No one ever talked to us about football scholarships and going to college.”
“When I think of my rookie year, Penn State forged me into the results of my rookie year. If it wasn’t for that, a lot of this stuff wouldn’t have happened, from the incredible rookie year I had to being ready to put yourself in a position to make a play and to finish a play, I credit all of that to Penn State. It really made that rookie season happen for me.”

Franco Harris

Franco meant so much to Steelers, city
December 23, 2022
– Football was what gave Franco Harris his platform. What he did beyond football was all up to the man. He chose to try to make the world a better place. Harris finished his illustrious career with 12,120 rushing yards and 91 touchdowns. He rushed for 1,000 yards eight times in his career, including every season from 1974 through 1979. Realize that Harris also shared carries during that time with Rocky Bleier and, prior to the 1978 season, NFL teams played just 14 games. He finished his career within 200 yards of the then-NFL rushing leader, Jim Brown. With just a handful more carries per season, he would have been No. 1 at the time of his retirement.