Dec. 24, 2014
DALLAS - Not a single current Louisiana Tech football player was born when Drew Pearson and Randy White were earning all-pro honors and turning the Dallas Cowboys into America's Team.
However, there was an air of reverent silence in the Cedar Room of the Omni Hotel and Resort in Dallas Tuesday night when the pair of former NFL greats spoke to the Bulldogs, reliving some of their professional football memories and relaying life lessons.
"Are you ready for some football," asked Pearson, a three-time all-pro selection and 11-year Dallas Cowboy (1973-83) wide receiver. "Me too. I was out in the hallway stretching."
Pearson knows about playing football. After prepping at South River High School in New Jersey - he succeeded Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann at the school - Pearson chose to attend Tulsa (over Nebraska) on a football scholarship.
"They had to drug test me," Pearson joked. "People wondered about me after that decision. They asked who passes on playing football at Nebraska."
And although his college career wasn't overly successful - "We were everyone's homecoming game" - it didn't prevent him from chasing his professional dreams.
"No one thought Drew Pearson was good enough to play in the NFL, and back then, there were 17 rounds of the NFL Draft," he said. "No one thought I was good enough to waste a draft pick on. I used that as motivation. Sometimes in life you have to take the road less traveled. All you should want is a chance, an opportunity."
Pearson got exactly that. He signed a free agent contract with the Cowboys, recalling his $150 signing bonus. "I made $14,400 my first year. I played 14 games. You do the math. It wasn't a lot of money."
However, Pearson said the money wasn't the most important thing. It was the fact he made the Dallas Cowboys team despite the fact there were close to 100 rookies in the team's training camp that fall.
"Don't ever let anyone tell you that you aren't good enough," Pearson said. "If they had put a tape measure around my heart, they would have known I had more heart than most of those guys."
During his time in Dallas, he helped the Cowboys to three Super Bowl appearances and the Super Bowl XII title. In 2011, he was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.
Pearson knows about overcoming obstacles and making the most of chances. And he stressed to the Louisiana Tech players to not allow an opportunity to be wasted.
"Friday you will have an opportunity to do something great (in your bowl game)," he said. "You have had a great season. I know you lost a tough (Conference USA) championship game, but it's a new day. This is an opportunity to travel down a road where you want to be as a program.
"Always play the game like is supposed to be played. If you asked (Randy and I) if we would do it again, you bet we would. Despite all of the aches and pains, we would do it again. It's the lessons we learned from playing the game that help us. Take the lessons you learn from playing football and use them in life."
Pearson's counterpart in the Cedar Room might have played on the opposite side of the football, but he was no stranger to success. Following a prep career at Thomas McKean High School in Wilmington, Delaware, White attended the University of Maryland where he won the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award as a senior.
"I tried to remember when I was a senior in college," White said. "That was a long time ago. Make sure you leave it all out on the football field. That is what it is all about."
White said he remembered playing in both the Liberty and the Peach Bowls in college. And as decorated as his college career as a Terrapin was, it was just the start of an incredible 14-year professional career with the Cowboys (1975-88).
The co-MVP of Super Bowl XII - one of only seven defensive players to ever receive this honor - White was a nine-time selection to the NFL All-Pro team and ended his career with 111 sacks and more than 1,000 tackles.
His message to the Bulldogs on Tuesday night was simple
"Do things the right way in life," he said. "I remember my college coach Jerry Claiborne telling me `If I can't count on you to do the little things right, how can I count on you to do the big things right?'"
Based on the fact he is enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, White listened to Claiborne's advice. He also had some more words of wisdom for the LA Tech team.
"Have empathy for people," he said. "Care about each other. Although you might have different views on things, come game-day, we come together as a team. Care about other people and let them know, not only in football but in life. Tell the people that you care about that you love them.
"Have drive; be self-motivated. Ultimately you are the one that has to do it. Prepare yourself to win and succeed every day. Anyone that tells you that success doesn't come without sacrifice isn't telling the truth. Success comes with plenty of sacrifice.
"Have strength. I'm not talking about how much you can bench press or squat. How do you react when things get tough. Life is going to have adversity. Don't ever point the finger at other people. Look at yourself and ask if you did enough. Did I do enough to help my team win."
Randy White and Drew Pearson have won plenty in their lifetime. And on Tuesday night, they did their part to help Louisiana Tech's players understand what it takes to claim victories on the field and in life.