Sports heroes don’t have much say in where they end up playing. It comes down to which team is the tallest in the draft, which positions their coaches need to fill, and so on.
Likewise, the cities that host these teams have no say in who comes to wear their local colors and play for hometown pride.
Sometimes it’s a bad marriage. An otherwise good player does not deserve a coach, team, or town.
But sometimes it’s magic.
Franco Harris was such a player – someone who just clicks into place, like he was molded to fit. Harris, 72, passed away on Tuesday.
This isn’t about his time growing up under Chuck Noll’s tenure as coach – it certainly worked. It’s hard to imagine a team as complementary as the Steelers.
It tells the story of Franco Harris, who moved from New Jersey to Pittsburgh via Pennsylvania. He stuck around long after he left the field while staying connected to his roots. He kept Pittsburgh as his hometown after moving to the Seattle Seahawks for his final season in 1984.
The Steelers drafted him in the first round. He paid it back with his lifelong loyalty.
He returned the favor with his business. With a Bachelor’s degree in Food Service and Management, he worked on super bakeries and whole grain super donuts that have become staples of many school breakfast programs. He was the owner of his Allied women’s football team, Pittsburgh, his Passion.
Harris has been a supporter of numerous charities, from the Special Olympics to the Pittsburgh Urban League to the Pittsburgh Promise, which focuses on scholarships.
And he was generous with more than money. From working with the organizations he supports, to noticing a star-obsessed fan while having dinner at a local restaurant and asking if he’d like a photo, he’s more than happy to take the time. I was.
Did he always get it right? of course not. Harris wasn’t perfect. There was a falling out with Noll over the transfer to Seattle. After the arrest and conviction of Jerry Sandusky, he went all out in defending Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
But when Harris encountered problems, he often dealt with them in the same way he did in football. He did it for the team, rushing full speed into the fight and standing his ground.
He will always be remembered as the last man with the Steelers to wear the number 32. The team hasn’t worn the jersey on another player since he took it off in 1983.
And he will also be known for The Immaculate Reception. It’s not just the famous football play that happened 50 years before his death. There was also how he scooped up Pittsburgh when the draft threw the Steelers at him, and how he carried the city every day after that.