Former Oakland Raiders’ Pro Bowl linebacker Phil Villapiano knows the call is coming next week. On Dec. 23, a little after 4 p.m., his phone will ring as it has for years. On the other end will be Pittsburgh Steelers’ Hall-of-Fame running back Franco Harris with a question.
“He’ll call around 4:07 p.m. or 4:08 p.m. because the game ran late,’’ Villapiano recalls on this week’s Talk of Fame Network show. “’What were you doing 30 or 40 years ago?’ He’s relentless with this phone call.’’
Thus begins one of the funniest interviews we’ve ever done on The Talk of Fame Network as Villapiano continues our “December’’ series, discussing Harris’ 1972 “Immaculate Reception’’ catch (or maybe not a catch) that cost the Raiders a playoff game and kick-started the Steelers dynasty.
Villapiano, who was covering Harris when that fateful play began, recalls the “Immaculate Reception’’ in crucial detail. He argues that the pass was illegal because it bounced off the shoulder of Steeler running back Frenchy Fuqua before Harris scooped it up at his shoe tops and that he was clipped as he pursued Harris.
He also reveals for the first time that he no longer believes Harris actually made the catch. The reason he changed his mind will shock you. So will Villapiano’s planned final revenge on Harris and the city of Pittsburgh.
“The last tackle I ever make I’m going to drive (a statue of Harris’ “Catch’’ on display at the Pittsburgh Airport) over the top and land on the dinosaur (sculpture) below. I’m going to take him over the top,’’ he said.
Also visiting our Hallo f Fame Guys Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge is former Baltimore Colts’ linebacker Stan White. He recalls the frustration he and his teammates endured on Dec. 24, 1977 when Villapiano’s Raiders beat the Colts in what became known as the “Ghost To The Post’’ game because of an acrobatic, over-the-shoulder catch by Oakland’s Dave Casper that led to a score and double-overtime win for the Raiders.
“That was my worst Christmas ever!’’ said White. “We were a little bit frantic. We needed a playoff win.’’
In addition, the guys chat with DetroitLions.com columnist Mike O’Hara, who evaluates how far he believes the Lions can go in the playoffs and who makes a strong case for including quarterback Matthew Stafford in the MVP discussion.
Our guys also spend some time with Hall-of-Fame semifinalist Mike Kenn, the bruising former tackle of the Atlanta Falcons. Kenn was a five-time All-Pro who started in 251 games, missing only nine games in 17 years. Kenn gives you his formula for longevity and discusses his Hall-of-Fame credentials and why the Falcons have so few players in Canton.
There’s that and much more during this rollicking two-hour show. It can be heard on SB Nation, Sirius Radio, on our iTunes podcast or by going to our website, talkoffamenetwork.com and clicking on the helmet icon.