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With all the talk of the dangers of staph- and MRSA-causing bacteria in locker rooms and gyms, it's no wonder the man behind the newest company protecting athletes from illness is someone familiar with the inside of a locker room. Former Pittsburgh Steelers great Franco Harris has long been known for his dedication to the city of Pittsburgh and the health of the people living in it. He is part owner of RSuper Foods, which produces nutrition-minded foods like the Super Donut, served in schools across the eastern U.S. But Harris' latest company, SilverSports, is aimed at maintaining the wellness of athletes from the outside in by protecting them against infection-causing bacteria.
The company's first line of American-made products -- which includes small and large sports towels, a foam roller/shaper and a prenatal workout kit -- hit shelves in December and is available nationwide at Dick's Sporting Goods. Each product is coated in Terra Silver, a SilverSport trademarked technology created from silver, an antimicrobial agent that reduces bacteria and protects against odor, and is said to decrease the chances of leaving the gym with someone else's bacteria. (If that sounds scary, it is. The most dangerous forms of MRSA are more deadly than HIV.)
"The Cleveland Browns' locker room was shut down a couple years ago, high schools are having outbreaks. Bacteria is a big concern," Harris says. "A lot of teams are taking their fight against this bacteria to the next level. That's what we're doing with our products, keeping sports clean with an extra layer of protection."
The towels, which are made of bamboo and feel more like a baby's blanket than a gym towel, are the core product in the line. And although they're thin and lighter than the cotton towels most of us tote to the gym, they're super absorbent. The longer, black towel can be used to cover the yoga mat -- which is designed to be slip-resistant in hot yoga classes -- or as a quick-drying bath towel you rarely need to wash. "We decided to focus on the fitness area first, on hotspots like towels and yoga mats," Harris says. "With our next set of products, we'll get more into sports and items for athletic teams."
Earlier this season, Harris gifted samples of his products to Steelers president Art Rooney II and members of the Steelers, and he is awaiting feedback. "Next, I'm going to get them over to Penn State," says the Nittany Lions alum and MVP of Super Bowl IX. No plans as of yet for a Terrible Towel version of the Silver Towel, but Harris hopes his towels will ensure the Steelers are the healthier team come Super Bowl Sunday.
And while we have him, what's Harris' prediction for that game?
"People want to see two heavyweights battle it out, and that's what they'll get," he said. "We have the team of the '60s and the team of the '70s meeting for the first time in the first Super Bowl played in Dallas [Cowboys] Stadium. It's going to be fun. But I have to go with Pittsburgh."