"But it was
going around that I might have been a problem. I remember wanting to send the
Steelers a telegram not to draft me, because I didn't want to go where the fans
threw snowballs at the players. But the guy who was my agent then told me not
to send the telegram because I probably had a bad rap now, and it would just
make it worse. I got a call that I'd been drafted by the Steelers, and I was in
However, he was
ready for the pros. For one thing, he was tired of trying to live on $15 a
month laundry money. "I never did understand that," Harris says.
"How is somebody from a poor family supposed to get by? You're not supposed
to scalp tickets. You're not supposed to get money from anybody else. You
couldn't have a job. Somebody who doesn't have any rights is the college
football player. Fortunately, I was able to scalp a few tickets."
And he'd had the
maturing experience of working for Walter Conti, who has since become president
of the Penn State board of trustees. Conti owns a restaurant in Doylestown,
Pa., and he was prevailed upon to take Harris on as a summer worker because he
was majoring in hotel and restaurant management.
junior year," says Conti, "Franco had become lax about some things. He
was supposed to show up for an interview at six. He showed up at 11. He said
he'd be finished with school on the 17th of June. So I told him to call me on
the first of June and I'd arrange for a place for him to live. On the 16th of
June at 1 a.m., after I'd given up on him, he called. So I found him a nice
place to live. He didn't like it. I found him another place. The first three
days of work, he was supposed to be here at eight in the morning. He'd show up
at 5 p.m. I told him, 'Either you come or you're done.' And the guy
"Now I say
Franco's my third son. He asked me questions that had more depth to them than
I'm asked by professionals.
"And he had a
desire for perfection. I could see that with my liver. Every calf's liver has
to be peeled, or when you cook it it curls up. Peeling liver is not one of the
better jobs that people like to do. Franco Harris cleaned my liver better than
anybody else has."
Harris also played
in the Senior Bowl and in the College All-Star game, "and I realized I was
a better athlete than those other guys. Why had they accomplished more in
college? I went to some of the weightlifters at Penn State and they taught me
how to lift. I developed a total commitment to getting in shape. It made all
the difference in the world. I told myself, when the other guys are tired,
that's when you do it. I felt stronger, smarter, my feel for the game was
And the Steelers
thought he was lazy. "I'm still trying to figure that out," Harris
says. "After the first exhibition game the coaches came up saying 'Good
game,' like they didn't expect it from me. It was hard to believe they were
disappointed in me the first week of practice. Maybe it was because I didn't
allow people to beat on me."
Ah. The crux of
Franco's peculiarity and strength. "I always feel that the easiest thing
you can do," he says, "is run into somebody."
Call it common
sense or call it elitist, such unabashed thinking is surprisingly rare in
football. When asked how he responds when people accuse Harris of not running
hard enough, Steeler Middle Linebacker Jack Lambert, headknocker nonpareil,
doesn't say, "I wrench their torsos off." He says, "That's Franco's