SOUTH RIVER, NJ -- Drew Pearson, the star wide receiver for the great Dallas Cowboys teams of the 1970s, was announced as one of the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2021 on Saturday, Feb. 6. Some local residents will remember that long before his NFL fame, he was a wide receiver and all-state quarterback who led South River High School to an undefeated season in 1968.

Pearson becomes the second South River high school football star to be enshrined in Canton, OH, as he will join quarterback and former high school teammate Joe Theismann among the Hall of Fame's inductees. In high school, he was one of Theismann's wide receivers and later took over as quarterback for the team as a junior after Theismann graduated. During his senior year, Pearson led South River to a perfect record and earned first team New Jersey All-State honors as quarterback. A three-sport athlete (football, baseball, basketball), he was inducted to the New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

The question for many football fans is what took the NFL so long to honor one of its all-time greats?

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Pearson retired 33 years ago and was the only member of the NFL's 1970s All-Decade team not to be inducted into the sport's Hall of fame, according to DallasCowboys.com

"I'm just excited that it happened," he said. "To me, it didn't matter when it happened – yeah, I was disappointed a few times and wondered why. But I know it's a tough process. I survived that process, and I'm a Pro Football Hall of Famer. That's all that matters." Drew Pearson (as told to DallasCowboys.com)

Pearson, one of the first receivers to wear no. 88, played his college football at Tulsa. He went on to national fame with the Cowboys during the 1970s, when they were often called "America's Team." He played from 1973-83 and had 489 career catches for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns and a Super Bowl XII champion. He also threw for three touchdowns during his NFL career and is the 20th Football Hall of Famer inducted based on accomplishments with Dallas. The wide receiver is probably best known for the NFL's original "Hail Mary" catch from fellow Hall of Famer Roger Staubach in the Cowboys' 1975 divisional playoff win over the Minnesota Vikings. 

"Congratulations to him. I know him very well professionally, and his induction is very well deserved," said former NY Giants great George Martin, who played against Pearson in the NFC East. 

"Drew Person was one of the most competitive athletes I played against and, as an adversary, he was real a pain in the ass," Martin, a Super Bowl champion with the Giants, said in a phone interview with TAPintoRaritan Bay. "He was a very dedicated player and had some great quarterbacks throwing to him. It's remarkable what he accomplished in his career."

The Hall of Fame class of 2021 also includes: Peyton Manning, Alan Faneca, Tom Flores, Calvin Johnson, John Lynch, Bill Nunn, and Charles Woodson.

Watch as Class of 2021 Enshrinee @88DrewPearson talks about his thoughts on receiving "The Knock" from @PFHOFPrez.#PFHOF21 pic.twitter.com/imQqFX94Cp

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) February 7, 2021