September 20, 2013

Rookie of the Year: Franco Harris, 1972

Fullback, Pittsburgh Steelers

Age: 22
College: Penn State
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 230

Following a college career in which he played in the shadow of HB Lydell Mitchell at Penn State, Harris was chosen by the Steelers in the first round (13th overall) of the 1972 NFL draft. It was hoped that he would provide needed depth at running back and he was also valued for his blocking ability.

1972 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 188 [15]
Most attempts, game - 21 (for 61 yds.) at Houston 12/10
Yards – 1055 [6]
Most yards, game – 138 yards (on 15 carries) at Buffalo 10/29
Average gain – 5.6 [4]
TDs – 10 [3]
100-yard rushing games – 7

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 21      
Most receptions, game – 4 (for 26 yds.) vs. Cleveland 12/3
Yards – 180
Most yards, game - 39 (on 2 catches) vs. Cincinnati 11/5
Average gain – 8.6
TDs – 1

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 8
Yards – 183
Average per return – 22.9
TDs – 0
Longest return – 32 yards

TDs – 11 [7]
Points – 66

Postseason: 2 G
Rushing attempts – 34
Most rushing attempts, game – 18 vs. Oakland, AFC Divisional playoff
Rushing yards – 140
Most rushing yards, game - 76 vs. Miami, AFC Championship
Average gain rushing – 4.1
Rushing TDs – 0

Pass receptions – 7
Most pass receptions, game - 5 vs. Oakland, AFC Divisional playoff
Pass receiving yards - 99
Most pass receiving yards, game - 96 vs. Oakland, AFC Divisional playoff
Average yards per reception – 14.1
Pass Receiving TDs - 1

Awards & Honors:
NFL Rookie of the Year: NEA
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: AP, PFWA
AFC Rookie of the Year: UPI, Sporting News
2nd team All-NFL: AP, NEA
1st team All-AFC: Sporting News
2nd team All-AFC: UPI
Pro Bowl

Steelers went 11-3 to finish first in the AFC Central while ranking second in the NFL in rushing yards (2520). Won AFC Divisional playoff over Oakland Raiders (13-7). Lost AFC Championship to Miami Dolphins (21-17).

Harris had a lesser year in 1973 due to nagging injuries, rushing for 698 yards and averaging almost two yards less per carry than during his rookie season (3.7). Still, he was again chosen to the Pro Bowl. Harris overcame early injuries in ’74 to rush for 1006 yards and was outstanding in the postseason, in particular with 158 yards in a MVP performance as the Steelers won the Super Bowl over Minnesota. It was the first of six straight thousand-yard seasons and eight overall. He was selected to nine straight Pro Bowls, was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection once, and received at least some All-NFL or All-AFC recognition in five other years. Harris played 12 seasons with the Steelers and finished up in 1984 with a year in Seattle. At the time of his retirement, his 12,120 rushing yards ranked third in NFL history (with 11,950 of that coming with Pittsburgh, the most in franchise history). His 100 touchdowns ranked fifth and he added 1556 rushing yards and 17 TDs in playoff games. Harris was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1990. 


Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL, AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year).