MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — Some people consider “The Immaculate Reception” as one of the greatest plays in NFL history. No matter what your opinions are on it, the play certainly left a lasting impact.

Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, marked the 50th Anniversary of “The Immaculate Reception,” which propelled the Pittsburgh Steelers past the Oakland Raiders on the final play of the AFC Divisional Playoff Game.

Franco Harris, the main player known from the play, suddenly passed away a few days before the anniversary due to unknown causes. Before his passing, Harris shared his memories of “The Immaculate Reception” with 12 News and members within Monongalia County Schools back in August at an event in Morgantown.

Franco Harris in Morgantown back in August (WBOY – Image)

Reflecting on the play, Harris told 12 News in an exclusive interview that he didn’t expect the play to become as iconic as it eventually did.

“You know what, not in my wildest dreams,” he said.

The Steelers are known as one of the most decorated franchises in all of North American professional sports. They weren’t always that way though.

The franchise was widely known as “perennial losers” before the Steelers dynasty in the 1970s that featured Harris, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Chuck Noll, the Steel Curtain and more iconic figures.

The team only played in one postseason game between 1933 and 1972, according to History.com.

The turning point of the franchise? “The Immaculate Reception” on Dec. 23, 1972.

Franco Harris, Jimmy Warren
FILE – Pittsburgh Steelers’ Franco Harris (32) eludes a tackle by Oakland Raiders’ Jimmy Warren as he runs 42-yards for a touchdown after catching a deflected pass during an AFC Divisional NFL football playoff game in Pittsburgh, Dec. 23, 1972 — forever known as the “Immaculate Reception.” (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck, File)

“1972, the year of ‘The Immaculate Reception,’ was the year that run started and the rest of the decade was incredible,” Harris said. “There were so many special moments, so many big games, so many great players and great moments. So, you have to have a starting point and I guess we look at 1972 and ‘The Immaculate Reception’ being that year as the starting point.”

Harris credited former Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno for why he was in the right spot for that play. He said that Coach Paterno taught him at Penn State to always move to where the ball was heading and that’s exactly what happened as Bradshaw fired a pass toward Frenchy Fuqua.

As Franco Harris caught the deflecting pass and scored in the waning moments of the game, it gave the Steelers their first-ever playoff touchdown, postseason victory and more. That starting point led to the Steelers rattling off a dynasty in that era that saw them win four Super Bowls over a six-year stretch.

FILE – Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris twirls a Terrible Towel during a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of his “Immaculate Reception” catch in the 1972 playoff game against the Oakland Raiders. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

After a 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX back in 1975, Harris won the Most Valuable Player Award. Harris rushed for one touchdown and 158 yards on 34 carries in the win.

“That was quite a run,” Harris on the Steelers dynasty.

A run that saw 14 players, coaches and front-office personnel inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Harris was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.

While Harris was a Hall of Fame football player, many will remember him as a Hall of Fame person as well.

To look back on other Franco Harris tribute stories done this past week by 12 News, click here for Jeff Hostetler’s reflection and click here for Brian Kiehl’s reflection.