John Fuqua was born in Detroit, Michigan, on September 12, 1947. A 1965 graduate of Detroit's Eastern High School, Fuqua played college football at Morgan State University and was drafted in the eleventh round of the 1969 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. The next season, Fuqua was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was while with the Steelers that Fuqua would become part of NFL history as the intended target for Terry Bradshaw's pass that resulted in the Immaculate Reception. Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum hit Fuqua just as the ball arrived. It has never been established whether the ball hit Fuqua or Tatum. This was critical, since under the rules of the time, once a pass touched an offensive player he was the only one eligible to catch the pass. If the ball had hit Fuqua without touching Tatum, the rules called for the play to be blown dead once Franco Harris touched the ball. Fuqua reportedly insists to this day that he knows whom the ball hit first, but will never tell.
Fuqua nicknamed himself "The French Count". He is remembered for being one of the flashiest dressers in the NFL, and would occasionally appear in public wearing platform shoes having see-through heels that contained water and a live tropical fish selected from his aquarium to match the color of the day's outfit. He won two Super Bowl titles during his Steelers tenure, which were also the first two championships in the team's history.
Over the course of his career, Fuqua played in 100 games, rushing for 3,031 yards and scoring 24 touchdowns. His best season was in 1970, his first with the Steelers, when he rushed for 691 yards and seven touchdowns. In this season, he set a then Steelers single-game rushing record of 218 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles. This was later surpassed in 2006 by Willie Parker when he gained 223 yards against the Cleveland Browns.
Teammate Franco Harris had his fanclub "Franco's Italian Army", and Fuqua had "Frenchy's Foreign Legion".
In celebration of the 35th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, Fuqua created a candy bar called "The Immaculate Confection".