Franco Harris is a retired American football player. He was born in March 7, 1950 to an African American father and an Italian mother. He studied at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in New Jersey and later at Penn State University. Here he played for the team “Littany Lions” as a fullback and served as a blocker for fellow teammate and All-American running back Lydell Mitchell. Although he was a blocker, he chalked up almost 1400 yards on the board and scored 14 touchdowns in his college career. In 1970, he was the leading scorer on his college team and had an impressive record overall.
Harris was drafted to the National Football League in 1972 by the team “Pittsburgh Steelers” and was picked as the 13th selection in the first round. Many critics commented that Mitchell should have been picked instead of Harris, but the former was instead selected by the team “Baltimore Colts” in the same NFL Draft. Harris, however, cleared all doubts by starting his career with a bang. In his first season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he had 188 carries, had run for 10 touchdowns and caught three touchdown passes. This led him to be named the National Football League’s “Rookie of the Year” by The Sporting News and United Press International.
His professional career lasted for 13 seasons, 12 of which he spent with the Pittsburgh Steelers. During this time, his statistics were in the top of the league and he was an invaluable asset to his team. He helped them win four Super Bowls in 1975, 1976, 1979, and 1980. In their very first victory in 1975, the Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings 16-6. Harris was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, making him not only the first African American, but also the first Italian American to be given this honor. He was very popular with Italian Americans in Pittsburgh, who called themselves “Franco’s Italian Army” and wore his jersey number “32” on their helmets.
Around 1983, Franco Harris had a conflict with the Rooney family, who owned and managed the Pittsburgh Steelers