Pittsburgh Steelers Retiring Franco Harris’ No. 32 on 50th Anniversary of Immaculate Reception

by Nick Geddes

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Tuesday that Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris will have his No. 32 jersey retired this season.

Harris will be honored at halftime of the Steelers’ home tilt against the Las Vegas Raiders on Dec. 24. The ceremony will be apart of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Immaculate Reception. In addition, the Steelers will take the field wearing special yellow patches on their jerseys to honor the 50th anniversary.

“The Immaculate Reception marked the turning point in franchise history,” Steelers team president Art Rooney II said, via ESPN. “My grandfather once was quoted saying, ‘Before Franco got here, we didn’t win much. Since he got here, we don’t lose.’ I think that sums it up pretty good. Franco’s impact on the franchise would be hard to overstate.”

Harris, 72, will be just the third Steeler to have his number retired, joining Ernie Stautner (70) and “Mean” Joe Greene (75). Harris is the first offensive player to earn the distinction.

“In my wildest dreams, I never expected it and, and it never crossed my mind,” Harris said. “It just wasn’t something that was top of mind. The Steelers don’t retire numbers. So you don’t have any thoughts about it. And so when Art mentioned it to me, I was blown away. I mean, that was a wow moment and unbelievable.”

Franco Harris’ Accomplishments Extend Far Beyond the Immaculate Reception

Since retiring after the 1984 season, he has been remembered for that winter day in 1972. That’s when Harris — then a rookie — made perhaps the greatest play in the history of the league. The Immaculate Reception aided the Steelers in defeating the Raiders and sending them onto the AFC Championship.

It’s easy to overlook Harris’ Hall of Fame career, in which he was one of the best running backs over the course of his 13-year career. Twelve of those came in Pittsburgh, with Harris winning four Super Bowls and named MVP in Super Bowl IX. He finished his career with 12,120 yards on the ground and 91 touchdowns on 4.1 yards per carry. He recorded eight 1,000-yard plus seasons and six straight from 1974-79. Harris took his place in Canton in 1990.

“No one saw the Steelers of the ’70s coming,” Harris said. “Nobody saw that, and it probably was beyond all expectations and dreams.”