Drew Pearson's hallowed No. 88 was bestowed upon the next Cowboys receiver with ambitions of meeting his legendary standard this spring, and Pearson might soon see that standard forever preserved in Canton.
Pearson was selected as the senior finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2021, the Hall announced Tuesday. Tom Flores, who led the Raiders to two Super Bowl titles as head coach, also was announced as a senior finalist from the coaching ranks.
In a storied, 11-season career, Pearson rose from undrafted free agent to become a three-time All-Pro, three-time Pro Bowler, member of the 1970s All-Decade Team and Super Bowl XII champion. He did so by catching 489 passes for 7,822 yards -- both good for fourth-most in Cowboys history -- and 48 touchdowns in 156 career games, all spent with Dallas. Pearson was equally as effective in the postseason, essentially matching his yards per game mark and catching eight additional touchdowns in 22 playoff contests.
"Thank you for the call. You made my day, and you made my life," an emotional Pearson told Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker, per the Hall's release. "How can I thank you? I'm crying, and I haven't cried in a long time. Happy tears. I've been waiting for this call for so long."
Pearson's receiving totals pale in comparison to the greats of later years mainly because the time in which he played was still dominated by a run-first approach. Pearson's yards per reception mark of 16 falls in line with that of Hall of Famer Steve Largent, and edged fellow famed No. 88 Michael Irvin by one-tenth of a yard, illustrating his effectiveness in a different era of football.
Pearson emerged from a group of 12 senior nominees whose careers ended at least 25 years ago, with the Hall's senior committee deciding on Pearson as its choice for 2021. Pearson will need to receive 80 percent voting support by the entire 48-member selection committee in a vote held Feb. 6, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.
Also announced Tuesday as a finalist was Flores.
The former Raiders signal-caller became the first Latino head coach to win a Super Bowl in January 1981 when his Oakland Raiders defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV. He won the title in his first playoff appearance as a head coach, too, becoming just one of seven coaches to do so in NFL history.
Flores embodied the early Raiders as much as anyone, going from the team's starting quarterback in its first-ever game in 1960 as part of the launch of the AFL, to the second-winningest coach in franchise history, trailing only the coach for whom he played: John Madden. As his players have often said, Flores' quiet, trusting style contrasted with that of Madden, but they both found success on the sideline as leaders of the Silver and Black. Flores' 8-3 mark in the postseason stands as proof that his way worked, no matter whether the team was in Oakland or Los Angeles, where he led the Raiders to another title in 1983 (Super Bowl XVIII).
Flores is one of eight head coaches to win a Super Bowl within his first two seasons, and one of three head coaches to win a Super Bowl with the team for which he played. He closed his head coaching career by patrolling the sideline of the Seattle Seahawks from 1992-1994.
The committee will choose from 18 finalists, including Pearson, Flores and a senior contributor to be named, and 15 modern-era finalists on Feb. 6, 2021. Like Pearson, Flores will also need 80 percent of the selection committee's vote.