‘Immaculate Reception’ Perhaps the Most Famous Play in American Football History

1970s-era Terry Bradshaw (12) and Franco Harris (32) game-worn jerseys are popular with collectors, often realizing up to $20,000 at auction.

By Jim O’Neal

The Immaculate Reception was a pass caught by Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game against the Oakland Raiders. It took place on Dec. 23, 1972, at Three Rivers Stadium, with the Steelers in their first playoff game since 1947.

With 22 seconds remaining in the game and Pittsburgh behind 7-6, QB Terry Bradshaw had a 4th and 10 on the Steelers’ own 40-yard line. He threw a long bomb to John Fuqua that was deflected by Raider safety Jack Tatum.

Harris scooped up the deflected pass and ran for the game-winning touchdown, 13-7 after a PAT. The game is arguably the most famous play in the history of American football and has been a source of controversy since many claim the ball touched either Fuqua or the ground before Harris caught it, either of which would have caused it to be an incomplete pass by the rules at the time.

The entire team and crowd were first stunned and then went wild. However, a week later, the Steelers lost the AFC title game to the Miami Dolphins.

This was the Miami team that went on to win Super Bowl VII against the Washington Redskins and finish the season 17-0, the only NFL team in history to finish undefeated and untied.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

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Hector Cantu

Hector Cantu was the editor of The Intelligent Collector magazine.

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