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The long wait is finally over for Drew Pearson.
The Dallas Cowboys’ original No. 88, who went from being an undrafted rookie to a legendary player who has had a hand in some of the greatest plays in franchise history, has been selected for inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Pearson was announced as one of eight members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021 at the NFL Honors ceremony Saturday night in Tampa, one night before Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There was an inkling that this would be the year for Pearson after he was named as the only candidate from the Hall of Fame’s Senior Committee.
His admittance washes away all the pain from past disappointments, specifically last year when he was not voted in as a member of the Hall of Fame’s Centennial Class of 2020.
A teary-eyed Pearson, 70, said “they broke his heart” before family and friends in a video that went viral during what was supposed to be a celebration party.
There was no party this time, as it was just Pearson and his grandson Kavika Pittman II in a hotel room in Tampa when the official announcement was made.
But there will be several gathering in the weeks and months ahead, culminating with what will likely be a grand affair in August at the formal induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio. While not a member of the Centennial Class, Pearson, perhaps somewhat ironically, will go in with all members the 2020 class because the COVID-19 pandemic postponed last year’s enshrinement ceremony to this year.
In college, Pearson played quarterback at Tulsa before joining the Cowboys as an undrafted rookie receiver in 1973.
He went on to play in 156 games during an 11-year career, catching 489 passes for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns. He appeared in the Super Bowl three times, winning Super Bowl XII in 1978.
Before Saturday, Pearson, who had been named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team, was the only member of that historic group not in the Hall of Fame.
His decades-long wait for the Hall of Fame was largely a product of the times, as most of his career numbers came in an era when the running game was more prominent, prior to the shift to the pass-happy movement and the explosion of receiver stats.
Now that he has found his place in NFL history, it only enhances his status as a Cowboys legend.
Nicknamed Mr. Clutch, Pearson has been an integral part of some of the most iconic plays in franchise history.
Most notable was the 50-yard “Hail Mary” reception from Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach to lift the Cowboys to a 17-14 win at the Minnesota Vikings in the 1975 NFC divisional round game.
Before that, he had a 50-yard touchdown pass from unknown-rookie Clint Longley, who replaced an injured Staubach, to clinch a comeback victory against rival Washington on Thanksgiving in 1974.
In 1980, Pearson caught two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Danny White to rally the Cowboys to a victory against the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round.
And he was blocking down the field when Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett set an NFL record with a 99-yard touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings on a Monday night game in 1983.
Pearson is the reason the Cowboys give their top rookie receiver who they think has a chance for greatness the No. 88 jersey.
He made the 88 club legendary in Dallas. It followed with Michael Irvin, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007; Dez Bryant, the team’s all-time leader in touchdown catches; and now CeeDee Lamb, who with 74 catches last season established a new team rookie reception record.
Previously inducted into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor in 2011, his Canton induction makes 20 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who were elected based on their accomplishments with the Cowboys.
That list includes Jerry Jones, Gil Brandt, Tom Landry, Tex Schramm, Jimmy Johnson, Troy Aikman, Larry Allen, Charles Haley, Bob Hayes, Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders, Mel Renfro, Bob Lilly, Randy White, Rayfield Wright, Staubach, Dorsett, Irvin and Cliff Harris, a safety who’s a member of the Centennial Class.
Nine others with ties to the Cowboys have also been enshrined. They are Herb Adderly, Lance Alworth, Mike Ditka, Forrest Gregg, Tommy McDonald, Bill Parcells, Jackie Smith, Terrell Owens and Harold Carmichael.