At age 7, Mike Thuransky had the pleasure of meeting and getting the signature of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris.
“I still have the autograph,” he said.
The picture was taken 40 years ago. Plenty has changed since Harris propped his brief case up on his knee and took a pen to paper for a young fan back in December 1974.
The 1970s Steelers, the NFL’s powerhouse team of that decade, were on their way back to the Steel City after claiming their second AFC Central Division title in three years. They downed the New England Patriots, 21-17, and Harris scored the game’s first touchdown en route to running for 136 yards.
“I knew the Steelers were going to be there [in the airport],” he said. “I was also there because my mother was getting off a flight, so our grandmother had us there.”
Thuransky is a life-long Steelers’ fan. His birthday, Jan. 21, arrived each year just as the dominant ’70s Steelers seemed to be contending for a Super Bowl. In fact, the franchise claimed its third Super Bowl on Jan. 21, 1979, Thuransky’s 12th birthday.
With an image of a helmeted Harris catching the Immaculate Reception in most fans’ minds, seeing him in street clothes seemed so bizarre to a young Thuransky.
“You know I always saw him as a football player,” he said. “I saw him with a brief case and I was awe struck, I was like, ‘What’s he doing in those clothes?”
Thuransky said Harris was more than willing to sign an autograph for him and his brother. Mike, however, was the one captured by Pittsburgh Press photographer Anthony Kaminski.
He still has that autograph, but he’s been trying for several years to get another from Harris.
“I have multiple pictures of the picture from the article,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get Franco to sign the picture of him signing the autograph for me.”