2001-02-07 / Sports

South River’s Pearson to be inducted to N.J. Hall of Fame

South River’s Pearson to be inducted to N.J. Hall of Fame

Football great a

member of 1970s

All-Decade Team

By Doug mckenzie

Staff Writer

Every year, the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey selects a handful of the state’s finest athletes to be inducted into the hall based on their achievements at both the amateur and professional levels. This year’s crop of inductees includes some of the biggest names in sports over the last 50 years.

On the local level, one of South River’s greatest football heroes will be inducted this year, after going on to a successful professional career. Born in raised in South River, Drew Pearson was a star from the moment he began playing football at South River High School. The 1969 graduate was an All-American quarterback for the Rams. After going to Tulsa University in 1970, where he started four games at quarterback before switching to flanker. Pearson was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent in 1973.

Over the course of his 10-year career, Pearson caught 489 passes for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns. He was named an NFL All-Pro in 1974 and 1977. On Oct. 1, 1976, Pearson caught the first touchdown pass in Giants Stadium history.

But perhaps Pearson’s greatest achievements were being named to the All-Decade Team of the 1970s and one of the Top 20 Pro Football All-Time Leading Receivers.

This year’s induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame is just the latest in a long line of accomplishments that Pearson attained since his childhood days in South River.

And Pearson joins an impressive list of athletes earning their inductions this year. Atop the list is the man who is believed to be the United States’ all-time greatest freestyle wrestler, Bruce Baumgartner. Over the course of his career, the Haledon native captured 13 world and Olympic medals, more than any wrestler in history. The 15-time U.S. National champion is a graduate of Manchester Regional High School.

He shares the spotlight with Willingboro High School graduate Carl Lewis, who is listed No. 12 on ESPN’s SportsCentury’s list of the 100 greatest athletes. Lewis, who shot to fame when he won four gold medals at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, is widely recognized as the United States’ greatest male track and field star since Jesse Owens.

Also on this year’s list of inductees are Joe Black, a Plainfield High School graduate who became the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game; Al Blozis, a Dickinson High School, Jersey City, graduate who held all but one record in the shot-put during his days at Georgetown University and was selected as an All-Pro football player in 1943; Richie Regan, a West Orange native who went on to be an All-American player at Yale and one of the nation’s most respected college football head coaches; Paul Tagliabue, a Jersey City native who became the commissioner of the National Football League in 1989 and has helped it expand from 28 to 32 teams during his tenure; and the 2000 Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils, whose inspired play last year led to the franchise’s second NHL championship in five years.

According to Ray Bateman, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority chairman, this year’s class ranks up there with some of the top groups in the hall’s history.

"This is another fine class of inductees for the New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame," he said. "We are proud that New Jersey’s rich sports history includes the lasting achievements of these outstanding individuals."

Added Sports Hall of Fame Chairman Aubrey Lewis: "The nomination committee and the board are grateful to have such a vast collection of athletes to choose from. One has to be truly special in order to be considered for induction."

The Sports Hall of Fame was established by the N.J. Legislature and is a nonprofit organization operated in conjunction with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. A gala induction dinner will be held May 17 at the Pegasus Restaurant in the Meadowlands Race-track.

The Hall of Fame honors amateur or professional athletes, deceased or alive, who have resided in New Jersey or who have a significant connection to the Garden State. Since the first induction ceremony in 1993, the hall has enshrined 63 legendary athletes in nine special events. Their plaques are on permanent display in the Continental Airlines Arena at the Meadowlands Sports Complex.

The Sports Hall of Fame also will recognize six outstanding high school scholar athletes with $1,000 academic scholarships. For ticket information and sponsorship opportunities, call (201) 507-8134.

For information on past inductees, visit the Hall of Fame’s Web site at njsea.com.


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