Franco Harris…. The baseball player?


Recently, former Pittsburgh Steeler running back and Hall of Famer Franco Harris made an appearance on the “Trailblazers: A Celebration of Black History in the NFL” on SiriusXM NFL Radio. The show spotlights several well-accomplished black players like Harris, Doug Williams and Warren Moon as names that changed the game in the NFL.

When Harris was asked on the show what specifically prompted him to get into football as a kid on SiriusXM NFL RadioHarris replied bluntly that it wasn’t even football that was his first love as a child.

“We never played football growing up,” Harris answered when asked. “We had nine children in our family. There was a TV. So my mom and dad got it. And I tell you what, football has never been so much on TV. It was mostly baseball. I grew up playing a lot of baseball in the empty lots. You know, we played a lot of baseball, kickball, that kind of stuff never played football in our neighborhood.

It’s crazy to think that an all-time Steelers great didn’t even recognize football as a passion in his early youth, but that’s exactly the case with Franco Harris. His family were big baseball fans growing upand given the allure of watching the spot on television as well as playing with his siblings and other neighborhood kids, it’s easy to see why baseball specifically became his first love.

However, Harris got involved in all three sports when he arrived in high school, and it was then that he recognized what he could be as a football player.

“Football was like a last thought, but I played it because I loved the sport,” Harris continued. “But it wasn’t my first love. It was baseball, but I’m glad I played all three because my junior year my football talent really exploded. And that’s where I knew football was a sport and that’s where my talent really was.

Until Franco Harris’ junior season, football wasn’t really on the man’s radar. He mentioned that he was on the varsity basketball team as a freshman in high school and also played a lot of baseball early in his high school career. Football came later down the road for Harris, who had little exposure to the game at this time compared to his teammates who had been playing since their youth. He needed time to learn the game and allow his body to mature like many do in that transition from high school to junior, which ended up being the catalyst for him to go from parent unknown on the grill to one of the best players. in the country.

“I was thinking more about basketball, then also baseball like I said,” Harris said of his involvement in high school sports. “I played football, but my talent really started to show in my freshman year. And then I started getting all these football scholarship offers. I did high school, All-American because of the great year I had my freshman year in. And it opened up a whole new world to me.

Harris ended up becoming an All-American running back at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in New Jersey and chose Penn State University from the slew of scholarship offers he received between his junior and senior year. . From there, he would total 2,002 rushing yards with 24 touchdowns while catching 28 passes for 352 yards and another touchdown, primarily being a tackler for All-American RB Lydell Mitchell. That didn’t stop the Pittsburgh Steelers from selecting Harris 13th overall in the 1972 NFL Draft, seeing the talent in him to become an NFL workhorse. Harris rewarded Pittsburgh with a Hall of Fame career, helping them win four Super Bowls in the ’70s while amassing 12,120 rushing yards, 2,287 receiving yards and 100 total touchdowns.

Still, it’s crazy to think that if it hadn’t been for a breakout junior campaign in Rancocas Valley, Franco could have tried his hand at college baseball. We obviously see his ability to field balls low to the ground on the famously pristine reception, so who knows what kind of player he might have been on the diamond at the college and possibly professional levels.

Either way, I think it’s safe to say that Steelers Nation is grateful that Franco Harris has become the football player he did. It helped Pittsburgh grow out of mediocrity and into a dynasty in the ’70s, reigniting the Pittsburgh Steelers Football legacy we know and love to this day.


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