ARLINGTON, Texas -- For the first time since moving into Cowboys Stadium, the team's Ring of Honor is getting some new members.
And, befitting the enormous building, the class is a big one: 1970s receiving star Drew Pearson, plus Charles Haley and Larry Allen, dominating linemen who helped power the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in the 1990s.
"All of these guys were a part of some of the greatest moments in franchise history, and were very impactful for us to have those moments," said team owner Jerry Jones, the sole judge and jury for the ring.
The names will be added Nov. 6, when the Cowboys play the Seattle Seahawks. They'll be the first additions since Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin went in together in 2005, and will swell the membership to 20 -- 18 players, plus coach Tom Landry and Tex Schramm, the longtime club president who started the ring in the early 1970s.
Pearson was an undrafted quarterback from Tulsa who made the team in 1973, and went on to be selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1970s. He's perhaps best known as the guy who caught the original "Hail Mary" in a 1975 playoff game against Minnesota, and as Roger Staubach's favorite target.
"Roger Staubach recently told me ... 'What Michael Irvin was for Troy, well that's what Drew Pearson was for me,' " Jones said. "That was good enough for me right there."
Pearson's omission from the ring has long been considered its biggest oversight. Schramm passed over him in the late 1980s and Jones had done the same since he bought the team in 1989.
Heavy lobbying by Staubach finally persuaded Jones. Pearson said it was worth the wait.
"This is a good time for me because now my kids are grown enough to really appreciate this, understand what it really means, and then my grandkids are old enough now to understand what it means and appreciate it," Pearson said.
Jones gave Pearson the choice of which side of the stadium his name would hang. The choice was easy -- the side behind the Cowboys' bench that already features Schramm, Staubach, Tom Landry and other players from the pre-Jones era.
There's no question Haley and Allen will go on the side facing the Cowboys' bench, the one that so far features only Aikman, Smith and Irvin.
Haley's arrival in a trade from San Francisco in 1992 is widely considered the tipping point in putting the Cowboys over the top. He'd already won two Super Bowls with the 49ers, and his winning attitude, plus a nasty demeanor at defensive end, helped Dallas win the Super Bowl that season, then again following the '93 and '95 seasons.
"I don't want to say that Charles Haley came in and taught that group how to win, but he certainly had a real positive influence in that direction," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who was part of those teams. "I can remember during that Super Bowl, against Buffalo at the Rose Bowl, it didn't go great right in the beginning of the game. One of my recollections being on the sidelines is Charles coming over and, in his own way, just kind of settling everyone down. Obviously everybody did settle down and it turned out to be a great day."
Haley is the first player who started his career with another team to make the Ring. His success with the 49ers seems to go contrary to Jones' notion that Ring members should be purely identified as a member of the Cowboys.
"I know where his heart is," Jones said. "I know where he had the most Super Bowl rings. His base is here, and so he is a Cowboy. I know that. That is important to me as well."
Jones noted that he hopes this honor will help Haley earn a sixth ring, the one given to members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a finalist for induction earlier this year.
Allen is up for induction in 2013 and is a pretty sure bet. He's among the few players in NFL history to be named to the All-Decade team in two decades, making it for the 1990s and 2000s.
"I would stand there with Barry Switzer and Barry would look out there and say, 'The best football player on the entire field is Larry,' " Jones said.
Jones wouldn't say whether Pearson was the last of the Landry-era players likely to be elected. Nor would he speculate on when the Ring would be expanded again or other candidates.
"We have a storied franchise and we have a lot of people you'd say they deserve to be there," Jones said. "But to make it special and to keep it special, I'm going to go back to Tex again. He said, 'Make it very exclusive, make it very exclusive."'
Is there room for Jerry Jones?
"Well, I've asked for the vote in the mirror," he said, laughing. "I can't get the vote. He won't agree. He knows too much."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press