The Norman Transcript

Sports

December 23, 2012

An unforgettable catch

PITTSBURGH — Franco Harris and the dynasty Pittsburgh Steelers — and even an old Oakland Raiders linebacker — returned to the spot of the Immaculate Reception on Saturday to unveil a monument on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the play.

At a tent adjacent to Heinz Field, Harris and former Steelers teammates ignored chilly conditions during the festive ceremony.

The monument is at the exact site of Harris’ famous touchdown reception at Three Rivers Stadium in a 13-7 victory over the Oakland Raiders in an AFC playoff game on Dec. 23, 1972.

“Isn’t this beautiful, guys?” Harris said to the crowd. “That play really represents our teams of the ‘70s.”

It was a defining moment in the NFL and sparked the Steelers to a run of four Super Bowl titles from 1972-79. They went on to win two more in 2006 and ‘09.

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

Outside the tent, Steelers faithful — many waving yellow towels and chanting, “Here we go, Steelers, here we go!” — looked on as Harris was joined on a podium by other former players, including running back Frenchy Fuqua, who was the intended target of quarterback Terry Bradshaw’s pass.

But the ball deflected off either Fuqua or Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum — replays were inconclusive — and an approaching Harris scooped the ball off his shoetops and raced past Oakland linebacker Phil Villapiano and defensive back Jimmy Warren into the end zone to put the Steelers ahead with 5 seconds remaining.

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

Harris then turned to his right and spotted Villapiano sitting nearby.

“Phil Villapiano thought he knew what he was doing,” Harris said.

Villapiano acknowledged Harris’ good-natured jab with a laugh and a nod.

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