Franco Harris openly lobbied for his Pittsburgh Steelers to select Najee Harris with their first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. More than eight months after the Steelers made the Hall of Famer’s wish a reality, the Alabama rookie running back broke Harris’ franchise rookie rushing record that had stood since 1972.
Najee Harris, who rushed for 984 yards through 15 games, set the mark during Monday night’s home game against the Cleveland Browns with a 30-yard run on the Steelers’ first possession of the second half, breaking the 100-yard mark.
The 1972 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Franco Harris rushed for 1,055 yards in 14 games while helping the Steelers capture their first division crown. He capped off his remarkable season by making the “Immaculate Reception” that lifted Pittsburgh to its first playoff victory, a 13-7 decision over John Madden’s Oakland Raiders.
“My rookie year was an incredible year,” said Franco, who won four Super Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. “That year, [Steelers fans] went crazy. Franco’s Italian Army popped up. And then we had all these fan clubs pop up. That generated so much enthusiasm and so much of a following. And it’s still there today with Steelers Nation. I don’t know if anybody ever had as much fun in their rookie year as I did. Going from the worst of all time to this incredible season, to an incredible base of fans, to win our first playoff game the way that we won it and to go from there. It was a dream rookie season.”
Najee Harris has enjoyed a promising start to his pro career. October’s Offensive Rookie of the Month, he entered Monday night’s game third in the league in carries and fifth in rushing. He is also second behind Diontae Johnson for the team lead in receptions. He also broke Le’Veon Bell’s franchise record for yards from scrimmage by a rookie during Pittsburgh’s Week 14 loss to Minnesota.