While hyping an installment of their series, “A Football Life,” NFL Network hailed The Immaculate Reception by Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris as the greatest play in NFL history. That claim had to draw a collective eye roll from Dallas Cowboys Nation. We know that the greatest play in NFL history came on a snowy afternoon in Minnesota and there was nary a Pittsburgh Steeler in sight. Of course, we are referring to the Hail Mary Roger Staubach sailed to Drew Pearson that eliminated the Minnesota Vikings from the 1975 playoffs and sent Dallas onward to a Super Bowl meeting with Pittsburgh.
When I moved to Minnesota for a few years in the late 1990s, I was surprised to find out that the Mall of America is built on the spot where Metropolitan Stadium once stood. Upon visiting the shopping monstrosity for the first time, I looked in vain for some sort of plaque where that historic catch was made and even asked some native Minnesotans about the lack of such a commemoration. They were not amused. I also asked them if their football gear was reversible from Minnesota Viking purple and gold to Green Bay Packer green and gold, since many fans in that neck of the woods seemed to change allegiances depending on the records of those respective teams. They were even less amused.
All the long-suffering Dallas Cowboys fans undoubtedly remember where they were on December 28, 1975. Yours truly was absentmindedly watching the game on a peaceful afternoon with my Dad when he leaped from his well-worn recliner and yelled, “He caught it!” From that moment forward, NFL Sunday’s were anything but peaceful at my house as my Dad and I loudly cheered on the ‘Boys and especially the greatest #88, Drew Pearson.
Like his most famous catch, Pearson has rarely been rewarded with the accolades he deserves. Coming to the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent from Tulsa in 1973, the skinny kid with his ‘fro oozing out of his helmet quickly became Roger Staubach’s go to receiver. They didn’t call him “Clutch” for nothing. Pearson didn’t limit his heroics to Staubach, though, as he was also the recipient of the 1974 Thanksgiving Day bomb from rookie QB Clint Longley that put the exclamation point on a comeback win over the Washington Redskins. He also teamed up with Danny White for a dramatic fourth quarter comeback to end the Atlanta Falcons season in 1980. Add to his resume three Pro Bowl selections and inclusion on the 1970s All-Decade and one has to wonder why Pearson hasn’t yet been enshrined in Pro Football’s Hall of Fame.
Perhaps more perplexing is the fact that it took the Dallas Cowboys until 2011 to add the Cowboy who is almost as synonymous with the franchise as the man with the funny hat, Coach Tom Landry, to its Ring of Honor. After he was finally officially recognized by the franchise for whom he had given so much in 2011, we hoped that Canton would finally come calling. That hasn’t happened yet, but as his career will attest, it’s never too late for the original #88.
At the very least, though, there ought to be a plaque.