Franco Harris’ early years
Franco Harris was born in 1950. His Father, Cad Harris, an African American, had served in World War II and was stationed in Italy. During his tour, Cad met Gina Parenti, a native Italian, as, like many soldiers overseas, fell in love and ended up marrying. Once World War II ended, Cad came home with his bride Gina and settled in Fort Dix, New Jersey. Then Franco was born.
Harris played for Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly Township in high school, graduating in 1968. Following high school, he attended Penn State University, playing under legendary head coach Joe Paterno who had become the head coach only two years earlier in 1966. Then came the 1972 NFL Draft.
After drafting Joe Greene in 1969, Terry Bradshaw in 1970, and Frank Lewis in 1971, the Steelers still needed a running back. Having the 13th selection, Franco Harris remained on the draft board. The Steelers wasted no time in selecting him.
Being a rookie and relatively unknown in Pittsburgh, fans had to take time to get to know him. No one knew at the time the Steelers drafted him that he was half-Italian and half-African American however, noticing someone’s ethnicity may seem strange in 2022, but in the 1970’s it was not.