Being the 100th season of the NFL, the class of 2020 is larger than usual, with an expanded class of 20 members to be consecrated in Canton, Ohio.
Fifteen of those members are part of a special centenary class, consisting of 10 seniors (players who last played more than 25 years ago), three taxpayers (an individual who is not a player or coach) and two coaches.
Pearson, a Super Bowl champion and member of the 1970s NFL team, thought this would be his year.
Instead, it was a day of disappointment.
His name was not called and he could not hide his emotions.
“They broke my heart,” Pearson said. “They broke my heart. And they did it like that! They hung it like that.”
Pearson was with Dallas between 1973 and 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.
“I can’t do anything about it,” Pearson said through tears. “I can’t catch more damn passes. I can’t run any more routes. It’s there. What bothers me the most is when they say you don’t deserve it, they talk negative about you. There’s nothing negative about my NFL career. Nothing!”
Cowboys players shared Pearson’s frustration. Former Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, who was number 88 as Pearson, tweeted: “What they did to Drew Pearson is not right … Original 88 … you deserve to be in the hall of fame no yes and that’s why … I’m sorry how they are making you a man … “
Tony Dorsett, the legendary Cowboys runner and Hall of Fame member, was Pearson’s teammate in the Cowboys. Dorsett tweeted a picture of him with Pearson, writing: “I am so disappointed that my man @ 88DrewPearson has not been selected for @ProFootballHOF. He deserves to be there. Great player, great man and great friend.”
The 15 were chosen by a panel during a meeting in the Hall of Fame last week. Five former players of the modern era will join them in the class of 2020. That group of five will be chosen on February 1, a day before Super Bowl LIV, in Miami. The class will be revealed at NFL Honors, a special two-hour primetime award that will air nationwide on the eve of Super Bowl LIV at 8 p.m. ET in Fox.
Here are the 15 members who were elected (* denotes that person has passed away):
Bill Cowher – Pittsburgh Steelers 1992-2006
Jimmy Johnson – 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins
* Steve Sabol, Administrator / President – 1964-2012 NFL Films
Paul Tagliabue, commissioner – National Football League 1989-2006
* George Young, collaborator / general manager – 1968-1974 Baltimore Colts, 1975-78 Miami Dolphins, 1979-1997 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League
Harold Carmichael, open receiver – 1971-1983 Philadelphia Eagles, 1984 Dallas Cowboys
Jim Covert, offensive tackle – 1983-1990 Chicago Bears
* Bobby Dillon, security – 1952-59 Green Bay Packers
Cliff Harris, Security – 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, security – 1974-1987 Pittsburgh Steelers
* Duke Slater, offensive tackle – 1922 Milwaukee Badgers, 1922-25 Rock Island Independents, 1926-1931 Chicago Cardinals
* Mac Speedie, final – 1946-1952 Cleveland Browns (AAFC / NFL)
* Ed Sprinkle, defensive end / linebacker – Chicago Bears 1944-1955