During the week when there was supposed to be a celebration of his life, the untimely death of Franco Harris shook the football world and the Steelers organization to its core. That includes his former teammates, who were getting ready to celebrate the anniversary of the play.
No one knew more about what the play meant to the Steelers than Joe Greene. The first of the ‘Super Steelers’ to be drafted, Greene helped establish the winning culture in Pittsburgh, much like Harris did with the Immaculate Reception. In an emotional interview with NFL Network, Greene remembered his former teammate and friend Harris.
“This is like a bad dream,” Greene said. “I’d like to wake up and find that it’s all untrue, what I’ve been experiencing the last 10-15 hours.”
Always seen around the community and helping better Pittsburgh in philanthropic ways, Harris was a teammate that by all accounts beamed up the locker room. Greene remembered the way that Harris made an impact on him as a person and the type of teammate he was.
“He couldn’t get any better, he couldn’t have been a better teammate,” Greene said. “Franco came to work early and he left late. He was always positive. Never said a negative thing about anyone or anything.”
Greene could not believe the news that Franco Harris passed away. Tributes from teammates far and wide poured in, and Greene remembered Harris by what he meant to Pittsburgh in the larger community. As a larger-than-life figure who had his statue placed in Pittsburgh International Airport, Harris’ face and the impact he made always followed the city around. Harris ignored a prosperous time in the Steelers franchise that elevated them into a legendary team.
“Before Franco came, we were not very good,” Greene said. “Then, Franco comes in during his rookie year in 1972, and we started to run the football and Franco was obviously a star. That was from the way he handled himself on and off the field. That gave us an attitude that we could win against anyone.”
Greene still plans to come to Pittsburgh to celebrate Harris’ life and the Immaculate Reception. It will be a somber day on Saturday for Harris’ teammates and the organization alike.