On a day when there was a lot of hype and hope for the future of Penn State football, coach James Franklin and the program found out it had lost a piece of its past: Franco Harris. Harris died Tuesday night at 72. At the start of his National Signing Day press conference, Franklin spoke on what Harris meant, not only to football history and the communities of Penn State and the Pittsburgh Steelers but to Pennsylvania.
Franklin said in his opening statement:
“Obviously, today is about the future of Penn State. There is a lot of excitement, but obviously, I want to take a moment to recognize the past and loss of Franco Harris. We heard some things this morning and didn’t want to be quick to put it out there. Wanted to be respectful to every involved in what is going on, But obviously, a huge loss. A huge loss for football in general, college football, NFL, Penn State and really Pennsylvania, For him to have the type of career he had at Penn State and then go on and do it for the Steelers, “ Franklin said.
“But more importantly than that, just an unbelievable human being. He was really an ambassador for the university and the football program. Was a servant leader. Every time I had a chance to be around him, I was so impressed with him and his wife. Obviously, involved with various causes around Pennsylvania. Just an amazing human being. A huge loss for us. Obviously, we want to send our condolences to the family, and if there’s anything we can do to support, we’d love to do that.”
Harrs was a part of the Pennsylvania Delegation associated with the Pennsylvania National Convention in 2008 in support of then-Senator Barack Obama. He also co-founded Super Bakery with college teammate Lydell Mitchell in 1990 to produce food for school children. He was a paid representative for Harrah’s Forest Enterprises casino plan for downtown Pittsburgh.
There has yet to be any word on if or how Penn State will honor Harris at the Rose Bowl Jan. 2.