Super Bowl Week Conjures Up Bright Moments

Feb 1, 2017

Super Bowl great Franco Harris and jazz legend Rahsaan Roland Kirk had great respect for each other
Credit Dorthaan Kirk for WBGO

Franco Harris was MVP of Super Bowl IX.  His Super Bowl career totals of 101 carries for 354 yards are records and his 4 career rushing touchdowns are tied for the second most in Super Bowl history. 

Franco Harris, who starred at Rancocas Valley High School in New Jersey, went on to play for Joe Paterno at Penn State.  Harris was inducted in Pro Football's Hall of Fame in 1990. 

With quarterback Terry Bradshaw and running back Rocky Bleier by his side, the fullback won four Super Bowl titles with the Steelers. 

Harris is best remembered for his "Immaculate Reception" catch in 1972 to help Pittsburgh beat the Oakland Raiders in a playoff game.  In 2006, The Heinz History Center, home of the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, installed a life-size figure of Harris in the grand concourse of Pittsburgh International Airport.

Franco has been a jazz fan for many years.  He and the late great jazz multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk were fans of each other's talents.  Rahsaan's widow, "WBGO's First Lady of Jazz "and Special Events and Programs Coordinator, Dorthann Kirk, has fond memories of Franco Harris meeting her late husband outside the old Giants Stadium in New York:

"I know Franco was one of Rahsaan's favorite players."   

Dorthaan says she became a sports reporter for her husband on certain Sunday afternoons when the saxophonist would have gigs:

"Rahsaan used to tell me to stay at the hotel or if we were at home and he had to play a matinee, to tell him the highlights of the football game and so I would.  I would watch the game and write down the highlights of what I knew for him."

Bright Moments, the title of one of the multi-intstrumentalist's live albums, was released a year after Franco's famous playoff catch.  Bright moments, indeed. 

4-time Super Bowl champ Rocky Bleier talks about the big game with SportsJam host Doug Doyle
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

It's only fair we show some love for Franco's backfield partner Rocky Bleier who also has four Super Bowl rings with the Steelers in the 1970's.  Bleier is also known for his courage and perseverance after being wounded in Vietnam.

In 2014, Bleier talked to host SportsJam host Doug Doyle about military service, the Steelers, Notre Dame and playing in four Super Bowls. 

“I think that we felt that something will happen. Somebody will make something happen. Defensively, we had the capability to make something happen-an interception here, or a fumble there. Offensively, with Bradshaw, you never knew what was going to happen."

Bleier says his quarterback Terry Bradshaw had complete control of the huddle and the Steelers offense stuck to the plan head Coach Chuck Noll and his staff developed for the big games:

"Our game plan was set, and we had great confidence in our game plan. But Brad would always come up with a big play here or there, a big run here or there, that would give us the edge. So there was in a belief that we could win. If we lose, it’s because we ran out of time. But we knew that we were going to win the game.”

This edition of SportsJam originally aired three years ago while Bleier was supporting an event at the Richard J. Codey Arena at South Mountain in West Orange prior to the Super Bowl played at Giants Stadium three years ago.

The undefeated Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team — composed of veterans injured while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — played in a charity game against a team of 9/11 first responders from New Jersey and New York.

Bleier received a standing ovation from the inspired crowd when he was announced at the game.