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Penn State in the NFL

Penn State Icon Franco Harris Honored by Steelers

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - OCTOBER 19: National Football League Hall of Fame Franco Harris poses with the 2019 Coaches Trophy which will be awarded to the college football national champions prior to the game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 19, 2019, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA, (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

The Steelers honored one of their icons and one of Penn State football’s icons Saturday evening.

Last Christmas Eve, the team retired Franco Harris’ No. 32 jersey.

Before wearing No. 32 with the Steelers, Harris wore No. 34 at Penn State and became an All-American.

Playing for Joe Paterno, Harris and Lydell Mitchell formed what’s still the program’s most famous backfield tandem. Harris and Mitchell helped Penn State to an undefeated season in 1969 and an 11-1 Cotton Bowl-winning campaign in 1971. 

Some feel that the Steelers should have retired Harris’ No. 32 jersey long ago. 

Franco’s widow, Dana, doesn’t feel her late husband was one of those people. 

Harris’s jersey was retired by the Steelers last Christmas Eve. 

Sadly, Harris passes away at 72 three days prior. 

But for Dana Harris– who was there with her and Franco’s son, Dok– her husband would have seen it as perfect timing. 

“Franco would be grinning from ear to ear,” Dana Harris said at Harris’s jersey exhibit unveiling inside Acrisure Stadium’s FedEx Great Hall Saturday ahead of the Steelers’ preseason game with the Buffalo Bills. “Some would say ‘What took so long? Franco would say ‘This is the right time. No matter what happened and when it was the right time.”

Steelers color commentator Craig Wolfley emceed the event and counted down from five as a big curtain came down to reveal Harris’ No. 32 alongside the Steelers’ other retired jerseys, Ernie Stautner (No. 70) and Joe Greene (No. 75).

Greene was among some of Harris’s former teammates that attended the ceremony, along with Mel Blount and Rocky Bleier.

Bleier, who was Harris’s backfield mate from 1972-80, told the crowd that this event “represents what Pittsburgh is all about. 

“Number 32 is more than just a number,” Bleier said. “It’s a memory. And each and every one of his teammates, and every one of you has a memory.”

Harris played with the Steelers from 1972-83, helping the Steelers to four Super Bowls, being the MVP of the first one (Super Bowl IX against the Vikings), making three All-Pro teams, nine Pro Bowls and being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. 

Steelers owner Art Rooney II pointed out that Harris’s 32 is the number of an offensive player that the Steelers have retired. Greene and Stautner were each defensive tackles. 

Rooney told the crowd that “Franco has a special place in all our hearts. 

“He always will, Rooney said. “Today we are here to celebrate a special place at Acrisure Stadium where we will always remember Franco. As we gather here today to unveil a permanent display of Franco’s jersey we are honored to have Dana and Dok with us here and Franco’s teammates.” 


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