This Is Us paid homage to Pittsburgh sports history in the Season 3 premiere episode “Nine Bucks,” but the footage of the iconic Terry Bradshaw-Franco Harris play in the 1972 NFL playoffs that bookended the episode left many fans confused.
This Is Us’ inclusion of the famous football play, forever known as the Immaculate Reception, had some fans wondering how the NFL greats will impact the Pearsons’ story. Some confused viewers went so far as to speculate that NFL legend Franco Harris is Deja’s (Lyric Ross) dad.
The Season 3 premiere of This Is Us kicked off with a previously unseen man, circa 1970s, talking to his mother before taking the field at Three Rivers Stadium, where his jersey marked “Harris” is seen. Retro footage from Franco Harris’s legendary football play was later shown, as well as his TV interview after the 1972 playoff game.
While the opening and closing segment featuring Harris’s improbable catch was seemingly meant as a timestamp for Jack and Rebecca’s (Milo Ventimiglia, Many Moore) first date in 1972, some This Is Us fans looked for deeper meaning as to how football legend Franco Harris, now 68-years-old, could possibly be related to the Pearsons. You can see some of the confused reaction from This Is Us fans below.
— This Is Us (@NBCThisisUs) September 26, 2018
Uh… what does Franco Harris have to do with this family!? #ThisIsUs
— Chachi (@ChachiRadio) September 26, 2018
I'm a little confused by the beginning of #thisisus but I think Franco Harris may be Deja's dad.
— Joan Tintor (@TintorDetto) September 26, 2018
Man #ThisIsUs always got me thinking in such an inception-deep way that I pretty much concluded Franco Harris was Randall’s father-in-law
— RJP (@RespeckThis) September 26, 2018
Franco Harris has something to do with Beth’s cousin. #ThisIsUs
— Jennifer Kassab (@kassab_jennifer) September 26, 2018
Everyone is focused on who “her” is and I’m over here trying to figure out the deeper connection to Franco Harris. There’s a reason they show his family twice. There’s always a reason. #ThisIsUs
— Tim St. John (@timstjohn) September 26, 2018
In real life, the Immaculate Reception is one of the most famous plays in football history. On Dec. 23, 1972, Steelers fullback Franco Harris famously grabbed the ball after it bounced off the helmet of an Oakland Raiders player during the AFC divisional playoff game, scoring a game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock. Two years later, Harris was named MVP of Super Bowl IX.
Franco Harris was named MVP of Super Bowl IX, rushing for 158 yards on 34 carries in 1975. pic.twitter.com/MoF07vCSGy
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 30, 2017
Of course, This Is Us fans know that the Steelers are a big part of the Pearson family’s history, too. The football-loving family bonded over their love for the game and Kate Pearson (Chrissy Metz) continues to watch the team’s games with her father’s urn by her side.
“As an entity, as a big thing they’re watching,” Fogelman said last year. “I’d love to get to a Steelers game to film. We’ve developed a relationship with the Steelers.”
And now we know that for Jack and Rebecca, their love story started on the same day as one of the most iconic Steelers football plays in history.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.