In his first season with the Steelers (1972), Harris was named the league’s Rookie of the Year by both The Sporting News and United Press International. In that season he gained 1,055 yards on 188 carries, with a 5.6 yards per carry average. He also rushed for 10 touchdowns and caught four touchdown passes. He was popular with Pittsburgh’s large Italian-American population: his fans, including “Brigadier General” Frank Sinatra, dubbed themselves “Franco’s Italian Army” and wore army helmets with his number on them.
Harris was chosen for nine consecutive Pro Bowls and was All-Pro in 1977. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in eight seasons, breaking a record set by Jim Brown.
As impressive as those statistics are, he is best known for a single play that was voted the #1 play in the first 100 years of the NFL. Two days ahead of Christmas in 1972 in an AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium, somehow Terry Bradshaw escaped a mighty pass rush and let fly a laser of a pass. Somehow, John “Frenchy” Fuqua survived a savage hit from Raiders safety Jack Tatum that sent the pass pinballing away. And somehow, Harris caught the deflection in mid-air during a full sprint, never slowing until he reached the end zone.
Though the Steelers didn’t advance to the Super Bowl that year, it was this play that many believe was the starting point to their dynastic 1970s run.
Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope coined it the “Immaculate Reception.” It began with 22 seconds remaining and the Steelers looking at fourth and 10 from their own 40. It ended with controversy and a jubilant home crowd celebrating a 13-7 win on the field.
The 6’9″ Jones received his famous nickname during his first college football practice, after a teammate mentioned that his pants did not fit, because he was “too tall to play football”.
In the 1974 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys drafted Jones as the first overall draft choice, making him the first football player from a historically black college to go that high in the NFL draft.
He became a starter at left defensive end during his second season in 1975 and by 1977 he had helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl XII. After playing five years for the Cowboys from 1974 through 1978, Jones at 28 years old and in the prime of his athletic career, left football to attempt a professional boxing career.
A former Golden Gloves fighter in Tennessee, Jones would fight six professional bouts as a heavyweight, with a perfect 6–0 record and five knockouts.
He returned to the Cowboys to play for the 1980 season, performing better than his first stint with the team.
Jones earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors three times from 1981 to 1983. He retired at the end of the 1989 season, having never missed a game, playing the most games by any Cowboys player (232) and being tied with Mark Tuinei and Bill Bates for most seasons (15).
Jones was one of the most dominant defensive players of his era, playing in 16 playoff games and three Super Bowls. He was part of three NFC championship teams and the Super Bowl XII champion. His success batting down passes convinced the NFL to keep track of it as an official stat.
The NFL did not start recognizing quarterback sacks as an official stat until 1982; although the Cowboys have their own records, dating back before the 1982 season. According to the Cowboys’ stats, Jones is unofficially credited with a total of 106 quarterback sacks (third most in team history) and officially with 57.5. He is the fifth leading tackler in franchise history with 1,032.
In 1985, he achieved a career high of 13 sacks.
Art Monk is a Pro Football Hall of Fame Receiver. Monk was drafted in the first round of the 1980 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. During his rookie year, he was a unanimous All-Rookie selection and had 58 receptions, which was a Redskins’ rookie record.
In 1984, Monk caught a then-NFL record 106 receptions for a career-best 1,372 yards. He caught eight or more passes in six games, had five games of 100 yards or more, and in a game against the San Francisco 49ers caught ten passes for 200 yards. That season, he earned team MVP honors and his first Pro Bowl selection. Monk went over the 1,000-yard mark in each of the following two seasons, becoming the first Redskins receiver to produce three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. He also became the first Redskins player to catch 70 or more passes in three consecutive seasons. In 1989, he was part of a prolific wide receiver trio (along with Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders) nicknamed “The Posse,” who became the first trio of wide receivers in NFL history to post 1,000-plus yards in the same season.
During Monk’s 14 seasons with the Redskins, the team won three Super Bowls (XVII, XXII, and XXVI) and had only three losing seasons. He was an All-Pro and All-NFC choice in 1984 and 1985 and was named second-team All-NFC in 1986. He was also selected to play in the Pro Bowl following the 1984, 1985 and 1986 seasons.
Nine times during his 15-season career with the Redskins, New York Jets, and Philadelphia Eagles, Monk exceeded 50 catches in a season and five times gained more than 1,000 receiving yards. His record for most receptions in a season (106 in 1984) stood until broken by Sterling Sharpe’s 108 in 1992. He also set the record for career receptions when he caught his 820th in a Monday Night game against Denver on October 12, 1992. He became the first player to eclipse 900 receptions, and pushed the record up to 940 before being overtaken by Jerry Rice in the final week of his last season (1995). With the retirement of James Lofton in 1993, he was the NFL’s active leader in career receiving yards for just two weeks in 1994 before being passed by Jerry Rice. He retired with the most consecutive games with a catch (183). He was named to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. Monk also became the first player in the league to record a touchdown reception in 15 consecutive seasons as well was the first player ever to record at least 35 receptions in 15 consecutive seasons. Through the course of his 14 years with the Redskins, Monk converted nearly two-thirds of his 888 catches into first downs.
On August 2, 2008, Monk, along with fellow Washington Redskins teammate Darrell Green, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Upon his induction into the Hall of Fame, Monk received the longest standing ovation in Pro Football Hall of Fame history, lasting four minutes and four seconds when later timed by NFL Films. In 2012, Monk was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Meriweather received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Miami and played for the Miami Hurricanes football team. In 2002, he played in three games and had three total tackles before injuring his ankle, and was given a medical redshirt by the NCAA. In 2003, Meriweather played the majority of the season on special teams and in different nickel and dime packages. He got his first start against West Virginia as a nickel back. He finished the year with 22 tackles, one interception and five pass break-ups.
Meriweather played in all 12 games of the 2004 season but only started seven because of a nagging shoulder injury. He contributed 62 tackles, a half sack, two forced fumbles, five pass break-ups and two interceptions. He received the team’s 2004 Hard Hitter Award.
Meriweather was selected in the first round (24th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. The pick used to select Meriweather was traded by the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for Deion Branch. During his rookie season most of his time was spent on special teams, and he finished the season with 28 tackles. He played in Super Bowl XLII as a fourth safety in the Patriots’ defense behind Rodney Harrison, James Sanders, and Eugene Wilson. During his second season in 2008, Meriweather recorded his first career interception in Week 2 off New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre. After starting strong safety Rodney Harrison suffered a season-ending injury against the Denver Broncos in Week 7, Meriweather started the final 11 games. In Week 14, Meriweather recorded his first career sack to stifle a late-game Seattle Seahawks drive and secure a Patriots victory. He finished the season with 83 tackles, two sacks, and four interceptions.
Nick Collins played for the Bethune–Cookman Wildcats football team. Collins had a breakout season in 2003, leading the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in interceptions with six and finished third in the conference in passes defended with 13. He also contributed 54 tackles (33 solo), a fumble recovery, and the first defensive touchdown of his college career (intercepting a pass by Norfolk State University quarterback Willie Mitchell and returning it 45 yards for the score). He was an all-conference selection for the season.
In 2002, Collins spent the majority of the season as a reserve linebacker. He played in all thirteen games of the season, making his first two starts in the final two games of the season at the strong safety position. Collins finished the season with 35 tackles (22 solo), one interception, five defended passes, one fumble recovery and eight kickoff returns for 181 yards. His strongest statistical performance of the season was an eight-tackle game in his first start, against Florida A&M University, on November 23.
The Green Bay Packers selected Collins in the second round (51st pick overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft. Collins would become only the second round Bethune-Cookman player to make the Packers roster.
He had a successful career starting for the Green Bay Packers’ until the 2011 season. In the season-opener against the New Orleans Saints that year, Collins collected eight combined tackles during a 42-34 victory. His career was cut short by a neck injury while attempting a tackle in his next start.
Collins was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 2016.
Taylor attended college at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he majored in psychology, but he was academically ineligible to play football his first two years. He joined the football team as a walk on in 2001, earning a scholarship prior to the season. In his first season, he played tailback and special teams and returned kicks.
Prior to his senior season, Taylor asked to be moved to cornerback. He started the season at the right cornerback spot and recorded 46 tackles, eight passes defensed and two forced fumbles. In four games, he did not allow an opponent to catch a ball. Among his college teammates was Charles Tillman who was drafted by the Chicago Bears.
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Taylor in the fourth round in the 2003 NFL Draft. His selection was made despite his inexperience and lack of consistent play and was based primarily on Taylor’s rare combination of size and speed. At 6’2″ and 195 lbs Taylor was timed as fast as 4.18 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. However, most NFL coaches and general managers still failed to see his potential. Taylor went on to play for the Steelers for 12 Seasons, retiring after the 2014 season.
Lee Corso is a sports broadcaster and football analyst for ESPN and a former coach. He has been a featured analyst on ESPN’s College GameDay program since its inception in 1987.
Corso served as the head football coach at the University of Louisville from 1969–1972, at Indiana University Bloomington from 1973–1982, and at Northern Illinois University in 1984, compiling a career college football coaching record of 73–85–6.
He was the head coach for the Orlando Renegades of the USFL in 1985, tallying a mark of 5–13.