It’s perhaps the most famous play in professional football history, but Franco Harris doesn’t remember it at all — never has.
That’s what the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers fullback and Hall of Famer said of what is reverentially known as the Immaculate Reception. Flashback to 1972 when the Oakland Raiders were leading the Steelers in a playoff game with 22 seconds to play. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw’s pass bounced off either the helmet of Raiders’ Jack Tatum or the hands of Steelers’ John Fuqua when Harris grabbed it, ran it in for a touchdown and the win.
The play is still controversial with pundits debating whether his catch was legitimate for nearly 40 years.
But don’t ask Harris to settle the issue. “I don’t remember,” he said. “I left the backfield and I have no recollection of anything, it’s really strange. But it’s on film, so…”
Although Harris will forever be associated with that play, he’ll also be remembered for his other accomplishments on the field in his 12 years with the Steelers and one with the Seattle Seahawks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990.
While Harris’ performance on the gridiron is legendary, he also has a long history with fashion.
In an interview from his home in Pittsburgh, Harris said one of the first businesses he started in the 1970s was screen printing T-shirts. “I’ve always had a connection to the apparel industry,” he said. “I never planned it, but certain things just seem to have drawn me to it.”
After getting his feet wet with the screen printing business, he started creating nightshirts for women in Steelers colors in the early ’80s with the names and numbers of players on the back. The shirts weren’t NFL sanctioned so there was no formal league identification on them, but they were clearly intended to appeal to fans of the game.
At the age of 71, Harris has worked with the Pro Football Hall of Fame to get the license to create Game Day Socks, a collection that replicates the game jerseys of some of the sport’s most famous players with both their names and numbers woven onto the back.
The socks, which launched this week in the run-up to the Hall of Fame game between the Steelers and Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 5 and induction ceremonies on Aug. 7 and 8, retail for $24.99. The first collection is centered around this year’s inductees, which include Peyton Manning, Troy Polamalu and Charles Woodson, but can be expanded later. “It’s so exciting for me to honor the legacy of these great players and be part of their game-day gear,” Harris said. Game Day Socks allow fans to show their allegiance to their favorite players and teams “from the jersey on their back to the socks on their feet.”
The socks are made from sweat-wicking premium yarns, have extra cushioning and feature Silverclean, an anti-odor technology that Harris and consumer products expert Tom Davis developed in 2010. “It keeps products free and clear of bacteria and odor-free,” he said. The silver technology boasts the socks can be worn 17 times without washing.
Harris said he’s always been interested in fashion, and laughed about the outrageous outfits he and his contemporaries wore back in the ’70s. “We thought we were fly, we thought we were so cool with those big collars and bell-bottoms,” he said with a laugh. “Fashion was a whole other world back then.”
Then, and now, fans like to show their allegiance to their favorite players and teams, and Game Day Socks is intended to appeal to those customers. “People love to show their colors,” he said.
Harris plans to attend the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Canton, Ohio, next month to celebrate the honorees, five of whom are Pittsburgh Steelers. “That makes me feel good,” he said.
Before the pandemic, Harris said he spent a lot of time on the road, but that stopped when the pandemic hit. “Life after football has been business and travel,” he said. “I keep busy with event-related stuff and try to balance life with business, charity work and fun events.”