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Offseason | 2021

Spagnola: Pearson's Hall Call Long Overdue


FRISCO, Texas – It's time.

No, it's about time.

Heck, it's past time.

That's for Drew Pearson's coronation as the 20th member of the Dallas Cowboys franchise to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame when Saturday night's announcement is officially made from Tampa, Fla., site of Sunday's Super Bowl LV.

In fact, this had better happen, a long overdue correction of a 33-year injustice for one of the NFL's all-time great wide receivers of his time, having spent his entire 11-year career with the Cowboys, signed as an undrafted rookie free agent from the University of Tulsa in 1973.

If not, we should take his case to the Supreme Court, petitioning to indict the 48-member Hall of Fame voting committee on conspiracy charges for not having given this NFL first-team All-Decade wide receiver from the 1970s the required 80-percent approval (38 votes) for induction.

Now there is nothing more we can do to campaign for Pearson's inclusion, and really nothing we say now – or he says now – can jinx his chances. Because of COVID-19 precautions, the committee members have already held their final discussions remotely and secretly cast their votes two weeks ago instead of doing so in person as usual the day before the Super Bowl is played.

No one but the Hall of Fame knows the outcome. Not Drew, the lone Seniors Committee nominee this year. Not the 15 Modern-Era finalists. Nor Contributor finalist Bill Nunn or Coach finalist Tom Flores.

They all await that knock on the door or phone call from Hall of Fame president Dave Baker on Saturday.

Pearson, who just turned 70 on Jan. 12, told me he'll be in Tampa for Saturday's reveal. And while nothing is ever certain during this process, Pearson's selection should be a mere rubber stamp, the, uh, analytics tell us.

From 2009-2019, 17 of the 19 Seniors Committee nominees have been confirmed. And the two who weren't the first time around, Claude Humphrey and Dick Stanfel, eventually were selected the second time around.

Good gosh, they wouldn't have the nerve – or oversight – to reject Drew again. Not after what happened with the Centennial Class of 2020 when it appeared Pearson would be a slam-dunk selection last year in Miami before Super Bowl LIV.

Only to be left in tears when he didn't make the cut into the 20-member 2020 Centennial Class created to celebrate the NFL's 100-year anniversary, a class that did include former Cowboys safety Cliff Harris and head coach Jimmy Johnson.

The rejection leaving Pearson saying on camera when learning of the disappointment, "They broke my heart."

Thus extending Pearson's wait surely no more than another year after having waited now 37 since retiring following the 1983 season.

And here is why this has been an inexcusable wait, a huge mystery, as researched by Hall of Fame Seniors Committee member Rick Gosselin.

· Of the 22 NFL first-team All-Decade selections from the 1970s, 21 reside in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The lone exception? Yep, Drew Pearson. In fact, Pearson had never been discussed as a finalist the Saturday prior to a Super Bowl until during last year's expanded Centennial Class.

· There are 10 wide receivers who played primarily in the 1970s with a bust in the Hall of Fame rotunda. But not Drew.

· For eight decades, from 1930-2010, 17 receivers have been selected to an all-decade team. Why, 16 of those are in the Hall of Fame, Drew the lone exception.

· How about this one: All first-team all-decade offensive players from 1950 through 1990, a total of 56, have been enshrined in Canton, Ohio … you guessed it, with the exception of Pearson.

· And since 2010, as proof the 48-member selection committee follows the Seniors Committee's nominations, all 27 have been Cantonized.

Surely this cruel and unusual rejection of Pearson will come to an end Saturday night, the selection committee becoming dutifully responsible for preserving one of the great stories in NFL history, for, as I like to say, posterity sake in the Hall of Fame, when those of us who know them are no longer around to tell them.

Surely come to an end for a guy who played in three Super Bowls, winning one; never having played on a team with a losing record; was on the receiving end of what famously became known as Roger Staubach's "Hail Mary" pass; the guy who first made the Cowboys No. 88 legendary with 489 career receptions for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns, with another 68 catches for 1,131 yards and eight touchdowns in 22 playoff games; and made NFL Draft history with his energized announcement of Cowboys' 2017 second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie by trolling a booing Philadelphia crowd.

This agonizing wait having been enough to make a man bitter as a few of the perceived neglected have been.

But leave it to Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter, who played 16 seasons in the NFL at a high level, with eight Pro Bowls and finished his career as the second all-time leading receiver to only Jerry Rice at the time but rejected four times before his Hall of Fame selection in 2013, to put the excruciating wait into perspective.

Especially after becoming bitter throughout the arduous process.

"I learned a very valuable lesson," Carter told NFL Network's _Good Morning Football_ earlier this week of his long wait. "I waited another five years. But I'm going to tell the guys who are waiting: Once you get in, it's not about when you got in. (It's about) the memories that I have, the conversations that I have with Hall of Famers on a daily basis, the way the Hall of Fame calls on its players to do things and be associated with the game, they'll help out kids. I don't think about the waiting time.

"I think about the lesson that I should have learned. I should have taken the high road when I didn't get in the first time. … But for me, the waiting has gone away with the sweet justice that every day I wake up as a Hall of Famer. … There are only 350 of us, 25,000 men have ever played this game, so you're in a very, very elite class.

"That call is going to come one day, that knock on the door is going to come, and let me tell you, there is nothing in your life, I don't care what you have done, that will prepare you for the pure joy of knowing that you have the accreditation of knowing you are one of the best football players in the world. So for me, it is well worth the wait. If they had made me wait two more years, it would have been worth it.

"So guys, try to be patient, but it's well worth it."

And you will be glad to know, the Cowboys' Original No. 88 is heading into what just has to be a memorable Super Bowl Saturday with a healthy mental and emotional mindset after all these years of being overlooked, surely ready to receive that unforgettable Hall of Fame knock.

"After you're in, it doesn't matter when it comes," Drew said the day before heading out to Tampa for what's being anticipated as one of the sweeter and most deserving days of his life. "Man, when it does happen, it's big.

"It's still big to me. It's still big to my family."

No matter how much time it's taken to get there.

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