Franco Harris rocks.

I’m not one to usually re-post forwarded emails, because 90% of them turn out to be lies. ALL LIES MR. RIEJTHEJLFI FROM NIGERIA WHO WANTS ME TO HAVE 1.6 MILLION DOLLARS!!!

But I’m making an exception here. Because it’s about Franco Harris, it appears to be a true story, and because it rocks.

Here’s the email:

Let me tell you about one soldier’s return flight to Iraq. He saw a man go into the bathroom at the Pittsburgh airport and he thought he recognized him. When the man came out, he went over to him and said, “Excuse me, sir, but are you Franco Harris?” The man replied, “Yes, I am.” And then, being such a big Steelers fan, [the soldier] asked him if he could have a pic of him. Franco was agreeable to this.

After taking the pic, they talked for a few minutes and [the soldier] told him he was on his way back to Iraq. Franco acknowledged [the soldier’s] sadness and gave him encouragement and safe return. They then shook hands and parted on their ways…

The end of the story, you would think, but not so…

You see, after awhile the soldier’s name was announced over the loudspeaker to come to the desk… which he did. Once there, the lady behind the counter informed him that there was an empty seat in First Class and she was going to bump him up to that seat if it was ok with him. He said he didn’t care where he sat in the plane as long as he made it to Atlanta to catch the Army plane, so she informed him that he was now going First Class to Atlanta. He thanked her and went back to tell everyone as he waited to board the plane.

Once he was seated on the plane, he was waving out the window to his Dad and Pap as he felt a hand on his leg. He turned to his side and there was Franco sitting in the seat next to him!!! Needless to say, they talked all the way to Atlanta about the Steelers and then parted with Franco taking his address and giving his signed ticket stub to the soldier as validation of their trip together.

This was a trip not of sadness and loneliness, but one this soldier will never forget and will talk about forever, thanks to Franco Harris. This act of kindness and generosity from this man is one that words cannot express. In my opinion, Franco Harris is “The man of all men!!” I wish I could thank him for making a soldier’s lonely flight back to war one of his ultimate lifetime experiences that he will talk about forever. Thank you, Mr. Franco Harris.

–A Soldier’s Aunt

Here’s the deal. I know Franco Harris, okay?

I mean, we’re not like THIS or anything, but yeah, if he saw me he’d be like, “Hey, PittGirl. Long time no see!” And in my interaction with Franco Harris, I can tell you that this man is awesome.

When I first met him, I said, “Hi, I’m PittGirl.” And he actually shook my hand and said, “Hi. I am Franco Harris.”

No shit, Sherlock!


  1. Chris
    January 22, 2008 10:34 am

    PittGirl – I concur, Franco is awesome. I used to work at a nonprofit to be named later. He attends their big Steeler’s special event and always graciously signs autographs for any child who asks.

  2. Mary
    January 22, 2008 10:52 am

    Deep dark secret … when I was little we lived in Ohio but we were Steeler fans. I thought the man’s name was Frank O’Harris. Thank God nobody knew what was going on in my ten-year-old mind.

    And top of the the morning to you!

  3. NY Luvs Pitts
    January 22, 2008 10:53 am

    You revealed your secret identity to Franco Harris?!?! WOW!!!

  4. pittgirl
    January 22, 2008 10:59 am

    No way. I met Franco way before I was “PittGirl.” I’m just sticking the “PittGirl” in that sentence in replacement of my real name. :)

    Fear not. Franco knows nothing.

  5. curtO.
    January 22, 2008 11:04 am

    I don’t want to poke holes in the story, because Franco is great…


    How did the soldier wave to his Dad and Pap with the security measures in place? The story does say at the Pittsburgh Airport, so were they on their way somewhere too, or were they on the ‘land’ side terminal and the soldier just gave an obligatory wave in the general direction of who he thinks would be looking at him if they even knew which plane taking off was his…

    When I got that forwarded email, I didn’t have a picture attached. Freakin cheapskate message forwarders, can’t even afford to keep an attachment on an email.

  6. Maria in Pgh
    January 22, 2008 11:23 am

    At two separate Kerry rallies in ’04, I got to pin a Kerry button on Franco right before he went onstage. He was as sweet as pie!

  7. Sarah
    January 22, 2008 11:30 am

    You know, even if that story isn’t real, it speaks to his character that there is a fake story floating about the internet singing his praises.

  8. back in the burgh
    January 22, 2008 11:39 am

    I’ve always admired Franco for his kindness to people, his love of this city and his awesome football game. This sounds to me like something he would absolutely do, and like Sarah said, it speaks to his character. Just another awesome ‘burger.

  9. BurgherinArkansas
    January 22, 2008 12:12 pm

    CurtO- the soldiers family was allowed to see him off because if they are going to war the family is given special security clearance to see them off..same thing if you have a child that is flying alone, the parent is allowed to go to the gate with them.

  10. curtO.
    January 22, 2008 12:41 pm

    My bad BurgherinArkansas. I didn’t ever hear that rule, which is a very nice rule.

    I used to travel a bunch with my job, post 911, and specifically I remember down in Dallas quite a few soldiers in full fatigues walking around the airport alone. I realize Dallas is a hub, so that could explain that.

    Like I said, it still shows Franco is a great guy, true or not.

  11. Erik
    January 22, 2008 1:30 pm

    PittGirl, I wish that you had clarified that Franco Harris does not know your secret identity before I kidnapped him and went all “Ve haf vays of making you TOK!” on him in my Secret Evil Cincinnati Lair.

    Oh well, the sodium pentothal should be wearing off any minute now.

  12. In Sewickley
    January 22, 2008 1:47 pm

    That made me cry. How nice.

    PittGirl, I often see Lynn Swann in Sewickley. The first time I ever ran into him, I said, “Hi.” And he goes, “Hi, I’m Lynn Swann.” (NOTE: this was around May 2007, well after he lost the election.)

    So after he said that I told him my name while thinking, “No shit, you’re Lynn Swann.”

  13. Eileen
    January 22, 2008 2:01 pm

    My friend was on the same plane once with Franco flying into Pittsburgh. Being from Venezuela, she had no idea who he was. She had a heave carry-on with her. Franco helped her get it out of the overhead, and offered to carry it through the airport for her. While they were walking through the airport, she kept looking in the windows of shops, forgetting he was following her with her luggage and oblivious to the stares he was getting. He didn’t try to hurry her at all.
    When they walked past the statue, he said to her, “you know, that’s me. I’m pretty famous around here.”
    She said to him in her broken English accent, “I don’t care who you are, what is important is that you are a perfect gentleman.” He just laughed. He even walked her to her car and put the suitcase in the trunk

  14. unsatisfied
    January 22, 2008 3:32 pm

    my favorite part after flying home from a work trip is coming through the pittsburgh airport and passing the likenesses of george washington and franco harris on the way to the train going back to the landside terminal.

    only in pittsburgh….. :-)

  15. Still A. Fan
    January 22, 2008 6:44 pm

    there is nothing on snopes about this story so i’d error on the side of “true”. also, curtO, different airports probably have different rules for servicemen. you’re making a leap that every guy in full fatigues is leaving for iraq. i’ve seen plenty of guys in full fatigues flying pre anything.

    i’ve also met both franco and swann back in the day at latrobe before camp was a media event. my neighbor’s older sister used to know robin cole and we would go to camp with her and hang out over where they ate dinner. we would catch them going in and coming out. i specifically remember swann leaving the dining area, coming back out to where some fans (maybe 25) were waiting and falling down on a blanket set up by two ladies. he stayed there and signed until everyone had one.

    i also have a franco story. the guy that used to be the minister of the churh i went to around that time attended penn state when harris was there. he was in the gym one day working out and decided to try the speed bag. he couldnt get the hang of it and someone came over to offer him advice and teach him how to use it. it was franco and he stayed there until he got the bag going. he was a BMOC and this guy…..wasn’t.

  16. Doug
    January 23, 2008 9:43 am

    Good thing for the Soldier that Mayor Lukey wasn’t on the same flight. Can’t you see him throwing a major league temper tantrum like the best 2-year-old and him screaming I AM MAYOR. I SIT NEXT TO FRANCO. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!! And you know the poor flight crew would eventually give in to make the Crying Mayor shut the F up.

  17. Megan
    January 23, 2008 12:52 pm

    **mascara alert**!!!

    I met Franco at the Funny Bone’s grand opening of their new location, when folks from “Who’s Line is it Anyway” were there (including Drew Carey). We sat next to Franco, and he was so much fun! He even got onstage and did a skit with the group.

  18. Chamomiles Davis
    January 23, 2008 2:33 pm

    Great story about a great guy. This is one reason why the Steelers are my second favorite team (after the Eagles, of course).

    One question: Exactly how tall IS Franco Harris? My God, he’s positively dwarfing the soldier next to him! No wonder he ran so well.

  19. Will
    January 23, 2008 3:00 pm

    Great story – although I’ve randomly been on three flights in & out of PIT with Franco in the past year and never saw him in 1st class.

    Sounds about right though…

  20. Patrick Sauer
    January 23, 2008 3:15 pm

    I frequently cover the intersection between sports and business, and I interviewed Franco Harris for a piece on post-career entrepreneurial success. Burgh locals probably know this, but he makes healthy donuts for a living and is doing quite well at it. Anyhow, Harris was a great interview and thought I would do the self-promotion thing and offer a link:

    Oddly, I also ended doing a piece on John Stallworth, who is a player in the national defense industry. Also, a great interview. The Rooneys and Chuck Noll bred their players for bigger things.

    p.s. I’m an Eagles fan, but even we can recognize a gentleman like Harris.

  21. vinnie
    January 23, 2008 5:11 pm

    Just another example of how Chuck Knoll was more interested in a player’s character than in their 40 time.

  22. Eileen
    January 24, 2008 12:11 pm

    Chuck Knoll?

  23. FbL
    March 8, 2008 10:34 am

    Hi, I’m the blogger who I think got this story started around the blogosphere. At the very least, the email posted here is exactly what I put up on my blog a year ago, including the edits.

    I first found it on a veterans site (including the pic) that is linked as part of the story in my post, but the page has since changed (it’s apparently not a well-organized site). I suspect that if somebody really wanted to check it out, the veterans organization could at least get one in touch with the aunt herself. Considering the organization’s credibility, I accepted it as truth when I read it.

    As far as waving, it depends on the airport, but many DO let families of soldiers heading into deployment join them in the terminal at departure.

  24. Tod Marner
    September 3, 2008 6:49 am

    PittGirl-I just got done working the DNC and was assigned to a hotel where the PA delegates stayed. On one of the days I saw Franco Harris walk in to the hotel. He was approached by several fans to take photos before he got to the registration desk.
    Franco was very cordial and accomodated everyone.
    I later met him in the hallway and later asked for a photo, which he did.
    I have to say, he truly is a very nice man and will never forget meeting him

  25. Thomas O'Malley
    September 25, 2008 10:15 am

    I think Franco is still the best have so many pictures and cards of him. I just wish I could get to know him as some of you guys.