O.J. Simpson Shares Heartfelt Story After Franco Harris Death

Franco Harris

Getty Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris died at 72 years old on December 21.

Current and retired players alike have taken to social media to share warm messages about former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris, who died suddenly on December 21. Included in that group was one of the more controversial football players of all time — fellow former running back O.J. Simpson.

The ex-member of the Buffalo Bills posted a 2-minute video on Twitter after he heard about Harris’ death. Simpson explained that he and Harris became friends when they first met on the football field in 1972.

Simpson offered his condolences to Harris’ family and spoke at length about his friend.

“Franco was just always a good, up-spirited guy,” Simpson said. “Just a terrific, terrific individual. It’s shocking. I was literally shocked when I woke up today.”

Simpson shared a couple different short heartfelt stories about Harris in the video.

Simpson Recalls Harris Beating Jim Brown in a Race

The ex-Bills running back told a couple brief stories from Harris’ playing career, but perhaps the most intriguing tale Simpson shared in his video post on Harris was about a race the Steelers running back had with fellow Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown.

“I remember one of the big laughs we had. Jim Brown kind of had a problem with Franco when Franco was nearing some of Jim’s records and kind of challenged Franco to a race, saying that he, and Jim may have been in his 40s at the time, could still outrun Franco,” Simpson said while chuckling. “Well, Franco took up the challenge, and of course, Franco cooked him.”

Simpson described Harris as a gentleman to Brown after winning the race in a blowout, but the incident amused the two friends.

“I tell ya, he and I got a big laugh about it when he was out of earshot of Jim Brown.”

Harris finished his career with 12,120 rushing yards, which was just shy of Brown’s mark of 12,312 yards on the ground. At the time of Harris’ retirement in 1984, only Walter Payton had more rushing yards than either of those two legends.

Simpson Remembers Harris’ Rookie Season

Simpson told one notable football story during his Twitter video from Harris’ first year in the NFL.

The Steelers visited the Bills two days before Halloween in 1972. Simpson described the day as rainy and muddy. The Bills star rushed for 189 yards, including a 94-yard touchdown, but that wasn’t enough, as Harris gained 138 yards and scored 2 touchdowns to lead Pittsburgh to a 38-21 victory.

“When I think back to that first year that we played, Franco made all the big plays,” Simpson said. “There was no Swann and no Stallworth in Pittsburgh at the time.

“The big plays was Franco, and he took them to the playoffs. Of course, we know what happened after that.”

Simpson said he and Harris met after the game and became fast friends after that. They competed against each other in Super Star competitions and were teammates at multiple Pro Bowls.

They also became tennis buddies. When Harris visited Los Angeles, Simpson said they would often get together to play tennis.

Harris and Simpson squared off in one playoff game following the 1974 season. The Steelers won the matchup, 32-14. Harris led the way with 79 yards from scrimmage and 3 touchdowns.

Pittsburgh capped off that season with its first championship, and Harris won Super Bowl MVP with a then-record 158 rushing yards in the big game.

Simpson finished his Twitter video saying goodbye to his friend.

“We’re going to miss you Franco. Great guy, terrific football player, great friend. God bless.”

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