Drew Pearson

Drew Pearson Reflects on 45th Anniversary of “The Hail Mary”

Dallas Cowboys legendary wide receiver scored one of the most dramatic touchdowns in NFL history on Dec. 28, 1975

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Drew Pearson's home is filled with memorabilia from his illustrious athletic career. Among his most cherished ornaments are mementos from the play known as "The Hail Mary."

He can't believe it's been 45 years since one of the most iconic plays in NFL history.

"When you think 45 years, 'Wow, wow," said Pearson. "Am I that old actually?"

Pearson will open presents on his 70th birthday on Jan. 12. But on Dec. 28, 1975, he was the gift-giver, to Cowboys fans, by hauling in one of the greatest catches in pro football history in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs against the Minnesota Vikings.

But that iconic moment in the game-winning drive never would have happened without another incredible completion -- one from Roger Staubach two plays earlier when the offense was facing a 4th and 17.

"(Roger) said run a post-corner on Nate Wright," said Pearson. "And the last thing he said when we broke the huddle, 'Make sure you get enough for the first down.'"

Pearson had just enough yardage on the sideline snag, much to the chagrin of a Metropolitan Stadium patrol guard who kicked Pearson after the improbable first down conversion. Years later, the two had a surprising reunion at an autograph signing session in Minnesota.

"I couldn't believe it," said Pearson. "The line was wrapped around the building. I thought it would be nobody there and I finally get in there and I sit down and I say, 'Who's this guy? My security?' 'No he's signing with you. he's the security guard that kicked you. He's a hero here."

drew pearson
NBC 5 News
In December 2020, former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson talks about an iconic catch, "The Hail Mary," made against the Vikings on Dec. 28, 1975.

But the real hero in the NFL history books is No. 88 who executed the play that soon followed to perfection.

Although fans of the Vikings, to this day, insist Pearson pushed Wright on the 50-yard completion for the decisive touchdown.

"There was no deliberate push," rebutted Pearson. "If I pushed him he would went halfway across the stadium, OK, with our momentum and everything we had going, but after the contact, he went straight down and anyway when I brought my hands around, the ball hit my hands and it went through my hands and I was bent over and the ball stuck between my elbow and my hip and I looked down and said, 'Oh Lord. I caught the Hail Mary' and backed into the end zone."

But fear of a flag on the play did enter Pearson's mind in the moment.

"I saw this orange object out of the corner of my eye after I caught the ball," said Pearson. "And was turning going back into the end zone and I thought it might be a flag, OK, and then when I saw this orange object hit the ground, it kept rolling and it was an orange, it was actually an orange, so I said, 'I ain't ever seen a flag roll so that's got to be a touchdown.'"

It was a touchdown, followed by a move Pearson regrets -- throwing the football out of the stadium, never to be seen again. Or so he thought.

"I've signed ticket stubs from that game. I've signed programs from that game," said Pearson. "I've gotten the finger from that game but no one's ever come up to me and said, 'This is the ball!' and this guy came up to me the other day and said that. I almost freaked out. Of course, he wouldn't give it to me unless I paid a lot of money because he said he paid a lot of money for it."

But the verified owner of "The Hail Mary" ball did let Pearson touch the famous football.

"Oh yeah, I touched it," said Pearson. "I kissed it, I hugged it. I said, 'I miss you!"

Pearson said "The Hail Mary" hasn't changed his life. But being a part of that famous moment has made his life better.

"It's just given me a lot of opportunities in my life," said Pearson. "To be associated with something like that, and it could have been anybody, but I'm proud it was me."

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