Days after the Hall of Famer’s passing, the Steelers held an emotional halftime ceremony to retire Franco Harris’ No. 32.
The ethereal Franco Harris jersey retiring event was introduced in this way by Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II on Saturday night. The Hall of Fame running back passed away on Tuesday at the age of 72, just days before he was to be honored among his 1972 Steelers teammates and become only the third member of the club to have his number retired. His “Immaculate Reception” established a dynasty 50 years ago this week.
A week that was meant to be a heartfelt celebration of Harris’ career and a memorable Steelers moment was marred by Harris’ passing. At halftime of Pittsburgh’s game against the Raiders at Acrisure Stadium, Harris’ family (widow Dana and son Dok), Steelers ownership, former players, and supporters braved the elements to pay their respects to the standout from the Steel City.
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During the ceremony, Rooney remarked, “The big man was supposed to be standing here right next to me.” “But I do want to thank Dana and Dok for being here tonight and for spending the last 50 years sharing Franco with us.
“”Life will bring you grief, but it’s up to us to bring the joy,” is a proverb. We enjoyed Franco’s company for 50 years.
It is my delight to formally retire No. 32 in honor of his numerous accomplishments both on and off the field.
Then, as Rooney gave Harris’ widow and son a No. 32 jersey, Steelers supporters cheered and sang “Fran-co! Fran-co!” It wasn’t the first Saturday night that the Hall of Famer received applause.
A standing ovation was given as Steelers stalwart Cameron Heyward emerged from the tunnel during pregame introductions carrying a big black No. 32 banner.
Prior to the singing of the national anthem, Harris was then given a moment of silence.
A week of mourning and celebration for Harris came to an end at the ceremony, which was attended by Steelers greats like Mel Blount and John Fuqua as well as a devoted crowd of Terrible Towelers willing to brave single-digit temperatures on Christmas Eve. During this time, the football community remembered Harris as a truly unforgettable player and person.