(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Drew Pearson interview, log on to the following attachment: Ep 26: A Chat With Pro Football Hall of Famer Drew Pearson | The Eye Test for Two | Spreaker)
First-ballot choices for the Pro Football Hall of Fame aren’t rare. In fact, they’re so frequent that 50 percent of the past four years’ classes have been first-ballot picks, with Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, and Calvin Johnson the latest.
Then there’s former Dallas receiver Drew Pearson.
A first-team all-decade choice for the 1970s, recipient of the original “Hail Mary” and creator of so many big plays that he was nicknamed “Mr. Clutch,” Pearson last weekend was named to the Hall’s Class of 2021.
He waited 33 years.
That doesn’t mean he wasn’t close. He was … last year when he was a finalist for the first time, one of 20 former players for the Hall’s Centennial Class. But he failed to be included, hanging his head to wipe away tears after his name wasn’t announced.
“They broke my heart,” he said then.
“My heart’s in good shape now,” he said on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast. “Still a little weak from celebrating.”
The amazing thing is not that it took Pearson 33 years to reach Canton. It took the Chiefs’ Johnny Robinson 43 years and the Packers’ Jerry Kramer – a member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team – 45. Nope, the amazing thing is that Drew Pearson never gave up on Canton when it seemed Canton had given up on him.
“My faith kept me going,” he said. “The fact that I did not ever give up hope. And, as I kept getting passed over and listed as the all-decade receiver of the ‘70s … then got to the point where (it was) the only all-decade guy not in … I figured one day it might happen.
“And I kept faith and had hope because the fans were telling me, ‘You know, you’re going to get in one day. It’s going to happen one day.’ And then when your teammates tell you – who are in the Hall of Fame – that say, ‘Hey, you belong here with us.’ That gives you some hope, too. And then you run into players that you played against, and they tell you (that) ‘you should be a Hall of Famer.’ “
But they don’t vote. Forty-eight selectors do. And neither they nor the “blue-ribbon panel” convened for the Centennial Class pushed Pearson across the finish line to Canton. Worse, he was trapped inside the senior class, where 59 all-decade choices this year competed for one spot.
That spot went to Pearson.
“You know what?” he said. “It doesn’t matter when it comes. As long as it comes. I can’t imagine being any more excited for it to come in my first year of eligibility or for it to come now.
“God knows what’s best for us in our lives. He has a plan for us, and we have to follow that plan … that path He has for us. So I had faith in that, as well as faith in other people coming to me and telling me I deserve it. So that’s how I got through it.”
Pearson and the seven other members of the Class of 2021 will be enshrined Aug. 8 in Canton as part of weekend celebration that will include members of the Class of 2020 and the Centennial Class – all of whom were denied last year’s inductions by the COVID shutdown.
But that’s OK. They waited one year. Drew Pearson waited 33. Both wound up in the same place.
“I waited 29 years to get in the Dallas Cowboy Ring of Honor, OK?” Pearson said. “So I’m used to waiting for these types of large recognition; this level of recognition. For a long time I thought my name was ‘Why aren’t you?” Because for 29 years people were saying, ‘Why aren’t you in the Cowboy Ring of Honor?’ And I finally got in, and that stopped.
“Then they started with, ‘Why aren’t you in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?’ But now I know my name is not ‘Why Aren’t You.’ My name is Drew Pearson, number 88, a member of the Class of 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame.”