To any football fan who grew up watching the nineteen-seventies Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson was the best wide receiver of all-time. No one made more clutch catches than he. When the game was on the line, it was Drew Pearson time.
Hell, Roger Staubach even credited Pearson with putting him in the Hall of Fame. That's how good he was.
In the wild and free football games of my youth, I unfailingly assumed the identity of Drew Pearson. Owing to the fact I was six-foot three (most of which was in my legs), I could run. It helped sustain the illusion that I was a reasonable facsimile of Mr. Pearson.
I would race into the end zone convinced I was in the silver, blue and white of the Cowboys. Was this what it felt like to be him?
Of course, while Drew enjoyed the adoration of tens of thousands (along with a national TV audience), I had only the hoots and hollers of four or five teammates. But in the true spirit of the game, it never ever detracted from the experience.
(Everyone should know what it's like to catch a perfectly-thrown football on the dead run. It is a perfect and beautiful symmetry.)
Drew Pearson played in an age when the pass was used to offset the run, not sustain an offense. Otherwise, he would have amassed Randy Moss-like numbers. As it was, his achievements were among the best of his generation.
Let the record show he was selected to the all-time NFL squad of the 1970s, along with Paul Warfield, Harold Carmichael and Lynn Swann. This is no mystery.
What is a mystery is that he remains outside the Hall of Fame. This perhaps is the expected byproduct of voters from New York City, Washington DC and Philadelphia with long memories.
At any rate, happy birthday, Drew. And thank you for providing so many indelible memories to keep me warm in the winter of my life. I had a ball watching you play.
I hope you had a ball playing.