Steelers unveil monument to Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception

Franco Harris, left, and Frenchy Fuqua unveil a monument commemorating the Immaculate Reception, which took place on Dec. 23, 1972, during a playoff win over the Oakland Raiders.
(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Franco Harris and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in a festive mood Saturday during a ceremony to unveil a monument to the Immaculate Reception, which took place 40 years ago.

At a tent next to Heinz Field, the monument occupies the spot at former Three Rivers Stadium where Harris caught a pass that had ricocheted off teammate Frenchy Fuqua or Raiders safety Jack Tatum. Harris scored the winning touchdown on the broken play with five seconds left for a 13-7 victory over Oakland in an AFC playoff game.

“Isn’t this beautiful, guys?” Harris said of the monument commissioned by the Heinz History Center. “That play really represents our teams of the ‘70s.

“There are moments in life where you know what you’re doing. Me and Frenchy, we had no idea what we were doing.”

Those Pittsburgh teams, quarterbacked by Terry Bradshaw and held together by the Steel Curtain defense, won four Super Bowls in a six-season span.


“The last 40 years have been incredible,” Harris said. “This is what the Pittsburgh Steelers are all about.”

It’s the third monument acknowledging the Immaculate Reception, which took place Dec. 23, 1972. The others, life-size statues of Harris making the catch, are at Pittsburgh International Airport and the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

Phil Villapiano, who played linebacker in the game for the Raiders, remains friends with Harris and many other former Steelers.

“Franco and I have talked about that play a million times,” said Villapiano, who attended the ceremony Saturday. “So many of those guys from the Steelers are my friends. I never thought that play would lead to so much talk and a statue. I love it.”


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