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Tue, 03.07.1950

Franco Harris, Football Player born

Franco Harris

*On this date in 1950, Franco Harris was born. He was a Black football (American football) player.

Harris was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey. His father, Cad Harris, a black soldier, served in World War II and was stationed in Italy during the war. His mother, Gina Parenti Harris, was a native Italian who moved with her husband when he returned to the United States after the end of the war.

Harris graduated from Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly Township, New Jersey, in 1968. He attended Penn State University, where he played football. He led the team in scoring in 1970. Harris was selected 13th overall in the first round of the 1972 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his first season, Harris was named the NFL Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News and the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. That season, he gained 1,055 yards on 188 carries, with an average of 5.6 yards per carry. Harris also rushed for ten touchdowns and caught one touchdown pass.

He was popular with Pittsburgh's large Italian American population. Harris was chosen for nine consecutive Pro Bowls (1972–1980) and was All-Pro in 1977. Harris rushed for more than 1,000 yards in eight seasons, breaking a record set by Jim Brown. They won four Super Bowls following 1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979 seasons. On January 12, 1975, he was the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl IX. Harris was the first African American and Italian American to be named Super Bowl MVP.

He and Lydell Mitchell, successful college teammates at Penn State, co-owned Super Bakery, a company founded in 1990 to produce nutrition-oriented foods for schoolchildren. The business was renamed to RSuper Foods in 2006. RSuper Foods produces the Super Donut served to students in eastern United States public schools. Harris and Mitchell also partnered in 1996 to rescue the Parks Sausage Company in Baltimore, the first African-American-owned business to go public in the U.S.

In 2007, Harris was a paid representative for the Harrah's and Forest City Enterprises casino plan for downtown Pittsburgh. In August 2008, Harris attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention, in Denver, Colorado, as part of the Pennsylvania delegation. He voted for Barack Obama on December 15, 2008, as one of Pennsylvania's 21 Democratic presidential electors. In January 2011, Harris became co-owner of the Pittsburgh Passion. Also, in 2011, Harris briefly worked with The Meadows Racetrack and Casino.

In 2019, Harris starred in the NFL's 100th Anniversary commercial recreating the Immaculate Reception. Harris was married to Dana Dokmanovich. They had one son together: Franco "Dok" Harris, who ran as a third-party candidate in the 2009 Pittsburgh mayoral election and finished in second place with 25% of the vote, His brother, Pete Harris, played football for Penn State and died of a heart attack on August 15, 2006, at age 49.

Harris served as part of Penn State's Center for Food Innovation advisory board and was named a Conti Professor in the fall of 2009 by Penn State's School of Hospitality Management. He was involved in and provided funding to Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, a group aimed at ousting the members of Penn State's board of trustees. Franco Harris died at his home on December 20, 2022, at age 72.

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