Irate Franco Stings Dallas
By John Clayton, The Pittsburgh Press
Mild-mannered Franco was irate.
Dallas linebacker Thomas Henderson had just tackled quarterback Terry Bradshaw despite a delay-of-game penalty that stopped the play before it really got started in the fourth quarter. But the referee's whistle didn't stop the Cowboy linebacker as he procedded to twirl Bradshaw to the turf.
To the rescue came Harris, nicknamed "Stingbee" by satirical teammates about his gentlemanly way of blocking. He jawed at Henderson for a few seconds before angrily strutting back to the huddle.
Seconds later Harris got revenge, racing 22 yards on a perfectly executed trap play that enabled the Steelers open a 28-17 lead en route to a 35-31 victory in Super Bowl XIII yesterday.
"He ran so hard, so fast. It was awesome," said Bradshaw of Harris' 22-yard touchdown burst. "I've never seen him run so hard. He wasn't going to be stopped. He'd run through a brick wall if the brick wall would've kept him out of the end zone."
There was no stopping him. Harris grabbed the ball from Bradshaw, spotted a big hole on the left side and outran the flat-footed Cowboys for the score.
"The only thing I saw was goal line," Harris proudly recalled. "It was a tackle trap play and we caught them in a blitz."
"I was kinda upset because of what Henderson was doing. It was after the whistle had blown and he just kept coming. That kind of defense is uncalled for."
Harris, who annually wins the nice guy award for blockers, is usually not one to fight.
"Franco was mad for what Henderson had done to me," Bradshaw said. "When I called the play, he wanted it to be his number."
Franco's eyes were burning as the fire of anger grew within him, and his ears opened wide to hear the play selection. "I just felt it was the right play at the right time to the right person," Bradshaw explained. "Everything was all set, because it was going against the right defense. I just felt so good about it."
And Harris' legs never moved so fast. As quickly as you could say, "Take that, Hollywood," Harris crossed the goal line for the score. He was congratulated by Bradshaw, who embraced him in the end zone for almost a minute.
It was a fitting climax to what had been a rough day for the Steeler fullback who normally thrives on post-season games. He had gained only 46 yards on 19 carries before the score and had been limited to 6 yards on six carries in the second half.
"They played us to the outside," Harris said. And played well. His outside sweepes were whisked away quickly by the Dallas defense.
Credit Henderson for inspiring the new spring in Harris' legs. But it's the post-season and Harris rarely needs inspiration. Does Reggie Jackson need lessons on how to swing at a fastball in the World Series?
Earlier in the game, Harris became the all-time Super Bowl ground-gainer, surpassing former Miami star Larry Csonka. Now he has 1,276 in 15 post-season appearances.
"You have to do it in the big games," Harris said. "I've been down to Super Bowls twice, so I know what to expect when I get down here. I just try to rest and keep away from the masses of people."
"I got a lot of rest the week before the game. Oh, I did get later calls at 2:30 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. People just don't know."
There really is a mean streak, a vengeful streak in Franco Harris. Just ask Thomas Henderson.