Before Christmas Eve Night’s Pittsburgh Steelers-Las Vegas Raiders game in Pittsburgh, Penn State legend Michael Robinson shared a few words about another Penn State legend, Franco Harris.
Robinson, who was a panelist on the NFL Network’s pregame show, said that Harris, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this week at 72, was “a Nittany Lion just like I am.”
“The football world and the world in general just lost a great human being,” Robinson said on the air.
Robinson then told a story about an interaction that involved himself, Harris and the man who coached both at Penn State more than three decades apart, Joe Paterno.
The story took place after the 2006 Orange Bowl, where Robinson quarterbacked Penn State to a 26-23 3OT win over coach Bobby Bowden and Florida State.
”Joe Paterno, myself and Franco were sitting around and Joe Paterno told anybody that was listening, ‘these are the two best players I’ve ever coached,’ Robinson said.
Joe Paterno’s son, Jay, was Robinson’s quarterbacks coach at Penn State. He shared the story on his Facebook page earlier Saturday, recalling that his father said Harris and Robinson were “two of the best & most unselfish football players I’ve ever coached.”
”When Mike called Franco to help his charity,” Paterno wrote, “Franco did not hesitate.”
When Joe Paterno praised Harris and Robinson, Robinson remembers he and Franco locking eyes and sharing “a humble smile.”
”Ever since that night, Franco always reminded me of it. Every single time I came to him, every single time we came in contact. He reminded me of how great I was.”
Both Robinson and Harris are beloved by Penn State fans. Harris was a star in the early years of Paterno’s reign in Happy Valley. He helped Penn State to an undefeated season in 1969, rushing for 643 yards, 10 touchdowns and 5.6 yards per carry as part of a dominant backfield with Lydell Mitchell and Charlie Pittman. Over the next two years, Harris and Mitchell became the most famous rushing duo in Penn State history.Both went on to have successful careers in the NFL, especially Harris.
Harris won four Super Bowls, made nine Pro Bowls and an all-pro team in 13 NFL seasons, 12 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Robinson didn’t have a Hall of Fame NFL career, but is an important part of Penn State history. “M-Rob” helped lead Penn State to an 11-1 record in 2005 that brought the program back to prominence after four losing records in five seasons. Penn State finished No. 3 in the country.
After college, Robinson played eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (2006-09) and Seattle Seahawks (2010-13), making the Pro Bowl in 2011.
Like so many, Michael Robinson loved Franco Harris.
“Thats what you got with Franco. When you left his presence, you always left with something. Again, I’ll repeat it even more. The football world, we all lost a humble and a great human being.”