Drew Pearson knew he was going to get booed.
After all, it was Philadelphia, the town that booed Santa Claus.
Philadelphia, whose Eagles fans once epically buried Jimmy Johnson and the hated Dallas Cowboys beneath an avalanche of snowballs.
Philly, whose fans cheered in 1999 when Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending neck injury and lay motionless on the Veterans Stadium turf.
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Philadelphia, home of the same people who in 1983 ambushed the Redskins’ costumed faux mascot, Chief Zee, ripping off his headdress and breaking his leg.
Pearson, an icon of the Eagles’ long bitter rivalry with the Cowboys, knew what was waiting for him as he prepared to step to the podium Friday night and announce Dallas’ second-round draft pick.
Go for it, Pearson says NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told him.
“I had not initially thought about egging on the Eagles crowd, but he encouraged me,” Pearson said Sunday. “He said to go ahead, egg them on even more.
“And I know this — I was not going up there, after sitting in the green room for two hours — and just read from a card.”
The result is forevermore NFL Draft history.
Pearson said he had heard the reception that the thousands and thousands of green-clad Eagles fans had given Harry Carson and Clinton Portis when the former players tried to announce the second-round picks of their NFC East rivals, New York and Washington.
“So I knew they would boo me,” Drew said.
I know this – I was not going up there, after sitting in the green room for two hours, and just read from a card.
Cowboys great Drew Pearson
“All right,” Pearson began, as the jeers immediately grew louder. “How ‘bout them Cowboys?!”
“I want to thank the Eagles fans for allowing me to have a career in the NFL. Thank you!” (Louder booing, more fist-waving).
As Pearson explained Sunday, “The crowd was so loud, I thought I had to raise my voice or nobody was going to hear me.”
So he turned it up to 11, and his draft announcement quickly began to sound like WWF ring rant.
“I am honored, as an undrafted free agent, to be selected to make the Cowboys’ second-round draft pick!!” Pearson shouted. “And on behalf of the five-time world champion Dallas Cowboys!!! . . . Hall of Fame owner Jerry Jones!!!! . . . Gene Jones and the Jones family! . . . coach Jason Garrett!! . . . all the Cowboys players that played before me, that played with me and played after me!!!
“With the second pick and the 60th pick in the second round, the Dallas Cowboys select defensive back from Colorado, Chidobe Awuzie!!!!”
The exclamation points are my own. But you get the idea.
As Pearson’s voice rose to a crescendo, the NFL Network cameras flashed back and forth to snarling, hate-spasming Eagles fans.
Ten minutes later, Drew Pearson’s name was trending on Twitter – worldwide. Fifteen minutes later, Pearson was getting an armed police escort back to his Philadelphia hotel.
“I rode back with Carlos Carson (who had announced the Kansas City pick), and he was concerned about riding with me,” Drew said. “He wanted me to get out of the car first, just in case.”
As much as Redskins and Giants fans purport to despise their division foes from Texas, the rivalries are different. The Washington and New York franchises have won Super Bowls. The Philly one has won nothing, a point that Pearson colorfully made Friday while Eagles fans frothed at the mouth and shook fists.
“I was honored that the Cowboys had asked me,” Drew said. “So I wanted to do it right, do Jerry right.”
Pearson said his mobile phone blew up. His voicemail swiftly filled.
I’m 66. I’m not looking to boost my brand. But what can you do? You’ve got to have fun with it.
Drew Pearson on his NFL Draft moment
By coincidence, he was scheduled as the keynote speaker at Saturday night’s black-tie dinner for the Harvey Martin Dream Foundation. Pearson got a standing ovation.
He has three interviews lined up for Monday and a live spot on ESPN’s SportsCenter via Skype. The NFL Network’s Good Morning, Football show wants to fly Drew to New York.
“I’m 66,” he said. “I’m not looking to boost my brand. This is all coming to me unexpectedly.
“But what can you do? You’ve got to have fun with it.”
Thanks to social media and the internet, Pearson’s 60 seconds at the microphone in Philadelphia are destined for a lengthy shelf life – an irony that hasn’t been lost on one of the NFL’s greatest receivers.
“People used to meet me and ask about the ‘Hail Mary,’” said Drew Pearson of the Dallas Cowboys. “Now, I guess, they’re going to be asking about this.”