Drew Pearson was joined by all three members of the first ballot of the class of 2021, Calvin Johnson, Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson to celebrate his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Dallas Cowboys’ “original 88”, decided it didn’t matter that he had been waiting almost 40 years.
Pearson stated, “With those first-ballot boys, I had to take a look at them and see if their happiness was greater than mine.” They were not happier than me getting in. They were my first ballot. 38 years later, I’m still as happy as them, and they’re as happy as me.
Pearson was not very happy a year before.
Roger Staubach’s Hail Mary receiver was named a finalist in the special 13-member centennial class. He invited his family, friends, and television cameras to his home for the announcement.
When he didn’t make it, Pearson tried to hide his anger and disappointment, but couldn’t. He was still alone a year later when word reached him that he had been named the only senior finalist, almost a guarantee that Pearson would be in.
Pearson didn’t pull a T.O. Terrell Owens, receiver, was upset that the T.O. took so long to arrive. Terrell Owens resigned from the Canton enshrinement ceremony three years ago. Pearson will attend his on Sunday.
Pearson described his 2020 reaction as “you saw raw emotion. Raw disappointment. Raw heartbreak.” “I was fine thirty minutes later. I was not mad at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They are so mad! “I kept my faith and was patient.”
The 70-year-old Pearson and Cliff Harris, the former Dallas safety who did make the centennial class, are the first undrafted Cowboys among their 15 players in the Hall of Fame.
After replacing Joe Theismann at South River High School, New Jersey, Pearson began his college career at Tulsa as a quarterback.
Pearson was expected to be the starter heading into his junior season. However, he asked his coaches to change to receiver as he believed that would give him the best chance of making it to the NFL. He caught 55 passes in two seasons.
Pearson stated, “It became quite lonely out there as a wide receiver.” “As a quarterback, you touch the ball every play. I knew that if I wanted to play professional football, this would be my natural position.
Gil Brandt, the player personnel director, gave Pearson a $150 signing bonus and made sure Pearson had an apartment near the club’s training facilities.
Pearson recalled being able see Staubach’s car from his balcony. Both love to recount the story about all the balls Pearson caught at Staubach in 1973.
Staubach laughed and said, “We’re just starting out. And there’s this guy in Tulsa who said he was a former quarterback.” “I could see that he was going to be a great football player after a few weeks.”
Pearson had 489 catches in the regular season before retiring in 1983, but his most famous was one of his 67 playoff grabs — the Hail Mary from Staubach to beat Minnesota during the 1975 season.
The 50-yarder in the final seconds of a 17-14 victory in the playoff opener — Vikings fans will forever say he pushed off against cornerback Nate Wright — led to the first of Pearson’s two Super Bowls, a 21-17 loss to Pittsburgh.
Two years later, Pearson won against Denver.
Staubach, who created the hall in 1985 and will introduce Pearson, said that Drew made big plays in many games. He wouldn’t have made that play without the help of his hands. He almost caught it on his hip.”
Pearson was a receiver who had 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns over the 11 seasons prior to the NFL becoming a pass-first league. Although he is not among the top three in career catches, yards, or touchdowns, he was always considered by his teammates to be in the Hall of Fame with his 1970s-era offensive teammates, Staubach, and Tony Dorsett, the running back.
“I had him scout wide receivers for me after his career was over,” said Brandt, who helped build the first Dallas dynasty with coach Tom Landry and general manager Tex Schramm and joined them in the hall two years ago. He was so skilled at what he did, I offered him a full time job. It was like a man who had been doing this for his entire life.”
Pearson isn’t the only “88” Cowboy to enter the hall of fame — Michael Irvin is. Dez Bryant holds the club record with 73 touchdown catches, so Pearson might not be the most well-known “88”.
Pearson is not the only one in the hall from his high-school — Alex Wojciechowicz from South River, class of 1968, after 13 seasons with Detroit (38-50) and Philadelphia (38-50).
Pearson is now in, and just like the long wait it doesn’t matter what.
Pearson stated, “Each and all of these Hall of Famer that are still with us, Cowboy Hall of Famers, that reached out and said, Welcome,’” Pearson added. “A few of them said that it was about time. Others said that the team has just gotten better since you’re back on track. That’s pretty cool.”
It’s probably worth it to wait for gold jacket.