Pittsburgh Steelers icon Franco Harris’ hometown of Mount Holly, New Jersey honored the Hall of Famer on Tuesday morning by naming a street after him. The street is called Franco Harris Way, located on the corner of Jacksonville Road and Ridgway Street. It’s the exact spot where Harris grew up and where his football life began. Harris passed away in December, two days before the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception and three days before his number was retired by the Steelers. He was 72.
The street sign of Franco Harris Way was unveiled by Harris’ son Dok.
“It’s quite nice, it’s a great honor. I think he’ll look down and really appreciate this,” Dok said via WPVI-TV in Philadelphia.
Before Dok unveiled the street sign, the mayor, family members, and former teammates, including Penn State teammate Lydell Mitchell, and NFL peer Joe Washington, shared a few words about their memories of Harris and the person he was.
The street that now bears his name is located right next to Rancocas Valley Regional High School, where Harris starred as a fullback before receiving a scholarship to play for Joe Paterno at Penn State.
“We grew up on this street, and we all went to that high school,” said his sister, Luana Scott.
“Pittsburgh’s home too, but this is where it all started,” added sister, Marisa Lattimore.
During a recruiting trip, Harris connected with Mitchell, a Salem High School standout who spent nine seasons in the NFL. Mitchell’s first impression of Harris was noticing the fellow running back’s 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame.
“You weren’t used to seeing guys like that,” Mitchell, 73, said via the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Right away we became good friends and stayed in touch, both going to Penn State.
“With him it was real. He treated everybody like they were special. … It didn’t matter where we were or what we were doing, he’d call you on the telephone, and the first thing he’d ask [was], ‘Man, how are you doing?’ He was always concerned about you.”
Harris is most famous for the Immaculate Reception in 1972, which is considered to be the greatest play in NFL history. Harris caught a deflected pass inches from the ground and ran for a 60-yard touchdown with five seconds left in a playoff game to defeat the Oakland Raiders. It was the Steelers’ first playoff victory in their 40-year history. It also kicked off the Super Steelers era, as Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls in six seasons from 1974-1979.
Harris younger brother, Giuseppe, remembers watching the Immaculate Reception from home.
“My mom was watching in the other room. With 22 seconds to go, she turned off the tv,” he explained to laughs. “She was Italian, she loved her Italian music, and she put on Ave Maria.”
At the end of the ceremony, the mayor and several council members declared that Dec. 23 will now be known as “Franco Harris Day” in Mount Holly and Burlington County.