Franco Harris Made Radio Appearance Just Hours Before His Death

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Despite a few coughs here and there, Franco Harris sounded just fine on Tuesday afternoon when speaking with Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo on his “Mad Dog Unleashed” program on SiriusXM.

Unfortunately, that would be Harris’ last known interview. The Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame running back passed away unexpectedly last night at the age of 72.

A cause of death has not yet been given.

When introducing Harris, Russo asked him how he was doing. “Doing great, fantastic. And as you said 50 years ago and it feels brand new,” Harris said.

Franco was speaking with Russo ahead of this weekend’s 50th Anniversary of “The Immaculate Reception.” His death occurred three days before the legendary play’s Anniversary.


Throughout the more than twenty-minute-long interview, both Russo and Harris reflected on his unexpected “catch” that resulted in a game winning touchdown in the 1972 AFC Divisional game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. The touchdown led to a reversal of the Steelers’ misfortunes and the start of what would eventually become one of, if not the, greatest football dynasties of all-time.

Harris told Russo that during the 1970’s the players never really talked about the significance of the play, which he was grateful for. Looking back, he said he’s happy the team’s accomplishment received all of the attention. That may not be the case in today’s highlight-driven sports world.

“We had a hell of a run during the 70’s… the next 8 years to be in 6 Championship games and 4 Super Bowls, that was an incredible run. So here we are setting new standards, doing new things, and we did not have a chance to reflect back [on the Reception]. Once we retired, we start to reflect back and we look at 1972 [with the catch],” the Steelers great said.


Harris described the series of plays that led up to that famous play. But as far as the actual catch and subsequent running it in for the touchdown, Harris says he has no idea what happened.

“When Bradshaw threw the ball, automatically my mind said ‘go to the ball.’ And so I started taking some steps to the ball and I remember nothing after that which blows my mind because I have no visual, no recollection, no memory of anything until I’m stiff-arming Jimmy Warren going into the end zone.”

“I watch the film like you watch the film and I have to come up with some sort of explanation and decision of things… because I remember nothing.” It’s almost like Harris is describing such an unbelievable moment where he essentially blacked out from what was occurring.

NFL Films has called Harris’ catch the greatest play of all time as well as the most controversial. One of the biggest arguments is over whether the pass hit the ground which would have been incomplete.

“Everyone seems to think the nose of the football hit the turf, but you’re saying that’s not the case, correct?” Russo asked.

“I have no idea,” Harris responded as they both cracked up.

Whether he really doesn’t know or he’s still having fun with it years later, Harris was humble throughout Tuesday’s interview.

Him and Russo were laughing back and forth and despite the obvious unfortunate news of his passing, at least his family can know that his final day was in good spirits and talking about the game which he so dearly loved.

The Steelers plan to retire his jersey during halftime of Saturday’s game against the Raiders.

For more OutKick coverage regarding Franco Harris death, you can read Terry O’Neil’s column here.

Written by Mike Gunzelman

Mike “Gunz” Gunzelman has been involved in the sports and media industry for over a decade. He’s also a risk taker - the first time he ever had sushi was from a Duane Reade in Penn Station in NYC.

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