Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson has been waiting for decades for a call from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s still waiting.
This being the NFL’s 100th season, the class of 2020 is larger than usual, with an expanded class of 20 members to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
Fifteen of those members are part of a special centennial class, consisting of 10 seniors (players who last played more than 25 years ago), three contributors (an individual other than a player or coach) and two coaches.
Pearson, a Super Bowl champion and member of the NFL’s 1970s all-decade team, thought this would be his year.
Instead, it was a day of disappointment.
Pearson, 69, invited family and friends, as well as CNN affiliate KTVT, to his home in Plano, Texas, to watch as the 15-person centennial slate for the class of 2020 was unveiled Wednesday over two hours during NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” program.
His name was not called, and he couldn’t hide his emotions.
“They broke my heart,” Pearson said. “They broke my heart. And they did it like this! They strung it out like this.”
Pearson was with Dallas from 1973-1983. He played in 156 games, catching 489 passes for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns. He appeared in the Super Bowl three times, winning Super Bowl XII in 1978.
He’s the only member on the offense of the 1970s all-decade team not in the Hall of Fame.
“Can’t do nothing about it,” Pearson said through tears. “Can’t catch no more damn passes. Can’t run no more routes. It’s there. What upsets me more is when they say you don’t deserve it, they talk negative about you. There’s nothing negative about my career in the NFL. Nothing!”
Fellow Cowboys players shared Pearson’s frustration. Former Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, who wore No. 88 like Pearson did, tweeted, “What they did to Drew Pearson is not Right… Original 88… you deserve to be in the hall of fame no if and buts about it.. I’m sorry how they are doing you man…”
Tony Dorsett, the legendary Cowboys running back and Hall of Famer, was Pearson’s teammate on the Cowboys. Dorsett tweeted a photo of himself with Pearson, writing: “So disappointed that my man @88DrewPearson wasn’t selected for @ProFootballHOF. He deserves to be there. Great player, great man and great friend.”
The 15 were elected by a panel during a meeting at the Hall of Fame last week. They will be joined in the class of 2020 by five former players from the modern era. That group of five will be elected on February 1, the day before Super Bowl LIV, in Miami. The class will be revealed at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on the eve of Super Bowl LIV at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.
Here are the 15 members that were elected (* denotes that person is deceased):
Bill Cowher — 1992-2006 Pittsburgh Steelers
Jimmy Johnson — 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins
*Steve Sabol, administrator/president — 1964-2012 NFL Films
Paul Tagliabue, commissioner — 1989-2006 National Football League
*George Young, contributor/general manager — 1968-1974 Baltimore Colts, 1975-78 Miami Dolphins, 1979-1997 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League
Harold Carmichael, wide receiver — 1971-1983 Philadelphia Eagles, 1984 Dallas Cowboys
Jim Covert, offensive tackle — 1983-1990 Chicago Bears
*Bobby Dillon, safety — 1952-59 Green Bay Packers
Cliff Harris, safety — 1970-79 Dallas Cowboys
*Winston Hill, offensive tackle — 1963-1976 New York Jets, 1977 Los Angeles Rams
*Alex Karras, defensive tackle — 1958-1962, 1964-1970 Detroit Lions
Donnie Shell, safety — 1974-1987 Pittsburgh Steelers
*Duke Slater, offensive tackle — 1922 Milwaukee Badgers, 1922-25 Rock Island Independents, 1926-1931 Chicago Cardinals
*Mac Speedie, end — 1946-1952 Cleveland Browns (AAFC/NFL)
*Ed Sprinkle, defensive end/linebacker — 1944-1955 Chicago Bears