This year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will finally fill a hole that it has had for 37 years. Drew Pearson, who retired as the Dallas Cowboys‘ all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, is headed to Canton with the Class of 2021.
Drew Pearson’s Hall of Fame career
Drew Pearson played eleven seasons in the NFL, all of them with the Dallas Cowboys. During this time, he participated in three Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XII in January 1978. In that Super Bowl-winning season of 1977, he led the NFL in receiving yards with 870 (yes, really).
Undoubtedly, Pearson’s most famous moment came on December 28, 1975, in the NFC divisional playoff in Minneapolis. With less than a minute remaining, the Cowboys trailed the Minnesota Vikings 14-10 and needed a miracle to advance. A miracle is exactly what happened. Roger Staubach fired a 50-yard touchdown pass to Pearson which proved to be the game-winner. This play would go down in history as the “Hail Mary”, a term that has stuck around in football ever since.
Drew Pearson after retirement
Upon his retirement after the 1983 season, he finished as the Cowboys’ all-time leader in both receptions and receiving yards. Both of these records have since been surpassed. In fact, Pearson’s career would have lasted longer had he not suffered career-ending injuries in a car accident in March 1984.
Pearson stuck around in football shortly after retirement, however. He served as the Cowboys’ wide receivers coach for the 1985 season, and was the head coach for the Arena Football League’s Dallas Texans in 1991.
The Dallas Cowboys did something unique with his jersey number, 88. Instead of retiring it, they passed it down through history to only their most talented wide receivers. Michael Irvin, Dez Bryant, and CeeDee Lamb have since worn Pearson’s famous number.
The original 88 finally gets the call
Despite his obvious credentials, the ultimate individual honor for an NFL player eluded Pearson for decades. For the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 100th-anniversary class last season, Pearson very nearly made it as a senior member. However, he fell just short of the required vote.
“They broke my heart,” Pearson said at the time, as quoted by USA Today.
Drew Pearson’s 37-year wait finally ended on Saturday. During the NFL Honors show on Saturday night, the league announced the 2021 Hall of Fame Class. Among the eight members inducted into Canton this August will be the 70-year-old former wide receiver. Pro Football Hall of Fame CEO David Baker knocked on Pearson’s door to personally deliver the news.