My story Wednesday morning on former Dallas Cowboy great Drew Pearson’s visit to Albuquerque barely scratched the surface of what he and I, with contributions from former Journal stringer and Cowboys superfan Dave Lepre, talked about over lunch at M’Tucci’s 25.
Some of the best of the rest:
As thrilled as Pearson is in anticipation of his Aug. 8 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the thrill is greater because of those that accompany him in the class of 2021.
“I’m going in with such a great class,” he said. “Three first-ballot guys in (Peyton) Manning and (Charles) Woodson and (Calvin) Johnson, and John Lynch and Alan Faneca and Tom Flores and (African-American journalist) Bill Nunn posthumously. … It’s gonna be a great feeling going into the Hall, no doubt, but going in with this class makes it even more special.”
Adding to the thrill: Cowboys defensive back Cliff Harris, Pearson’s longtime teammate, will be inducted the previous day as part of the class of 2020 — that ceremony delayed for a year by the coronavirus pandemic.
… This wasn’t Pearson’s first visit to New Mexico, or even his second. He made a personal appearance at Kirtland Air Force Base in 1979, when in a Journal interview he talked about the pain associated with the Cowboys’ Super Bowl XIII loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that January — not realizing, of course, that he would not get back to the Super Bowl before his retirement in 1983.
He was back in New Mexico in 1982 as captain and organizer of the Dallas Cowboys touring basketball team. That July, Pearson — a basketball star as well as a football star at South River (N.J.) High School — scored 19 points in a 78-73 loss to a team of former New Mexico Lobos at the Pit.
Then, Pearson recalled on Tuesday, the Cowboy hoopsters traveled to Los Alamos for another exhibition game. The Atomic City’s 7,300-foot elevation, he said, did the Cowboys in.
“The first half, we’re killing ‘em,” he said, “Too Tall (Jones) is dunking and (stuff) behind his head, and we’re running, fast breaking.
“Second half … that altitude was kicking us, man. (The Cowboys) couldn’t wait ‘til that game was over. They were throwing up in the locker room and everything. I said, ‘God, we only played a charity basketball game.’ But that altitude got us.”
From there, the Cowboys played in Artesia and Roswell, and on a later trip in Las Cruces.
… Pearson said he remains close to former Notre Dame and Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, with whom he played at South River High. Pearson as a sophomore was Theismann’s favorite wide receiver, then replaced Theismann (pronounced “Theesman” until it was changed at Notre Dame to rhyme with “Heisman”) as the quarterback.
Far lesser known: Pearson and Theismann formed South River’s starting basketball backcourt for one season.
Theismann, Pearson said, is planning to attend the Hall of Fame ceremonies next month. Theismann is not — yet, at least — a member.
… Pearson’s time as a high school quarterback invoked a memory of a Punt Pass & Kick contest in Dallas at which he won the passing competition with a throw of some 70 yards — beating, among others, Roger Staubach.
Staubach, in fact, finished third that day.
“I said, ‘Roger, if anybody’s gonna beat you, it should be me. Not this fullback from SMU (who finished second).’”
That said, Pearson went on to say that Staubach had a terrific arm as well as uncanny accuracy — able to put the ball in tight spaces. He said Danny White, who succeeded Staubach after the latter’s retirement after the 1979 season, didn’t quite have Staubach’s arm strength but had similar accuracy and great anticipation.
The Staubach-White transition was virtually seamless, he said (though that can’t be said about the Dallas defense).
… Pearson, a three-time All-Pro wide receiver, said his favorite active NFL wideout is Phoenix star Larry Fitzgerald.
“It’s amazing how long he’s played, and his stats would be so much better (with consistency around him). I don’t know how many quarterbacks or offensive systems he’s played in.”
Pearson also likes Seattle’s Tyler Lockett. He’s partial, as well, to the Dallas triumvirate of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, who wears the iconic No. 88 jersey that Pearson, Michael Irvin and Dez Bryant wore before him.
… Rest assured that for Pearson, the Cowboys — 38 years after he last played — remain his team. If Dallas is to get back to the Super Bowl, which last happened a quarter-century ago, “They need to shore up that defense, that’s the No.1 thing. We got burned up last season.”
He’s hoping a defense-heavy 2021 draft and new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn can make a difference.
“Hopefully, (Quinn’s) philosophy fits the talent that we have, better to take advantage of that.
“And each player has to be accountable to their job, and doing their job and knowing that if they don’t, the team suffers.”