On March 21st 1984, following a poker game where Drew Pearson took $300 off of Dallas Cowboys teammate Doug Donley (he didn’t normally have a seat at that table), but the ride back from Coalgate Oklahoma was a long one and it was a good way to pass the time.
The bus carrying the Dallas Hoopsters arrived at the Dallas Cowboys practice facility at Forest Lane and Abrams around 1 a.m. Drew Pearson loved managing the Cowboys basketball team, but there was a lot to do before leaving in 12 hours to fly to Washington, D.C. for a series of three exhibition games against the Washington Redskins. The first thing was to drop off his younger brother, Carey (27 yrs old) who was going to stay with one of the other Pearson brothers, Andre, who lived just down Interstate 635 in Garland.
Only minutes later, Drew Pearson awoke to flashing lights. There was glass everywhere and his brother Carey’s limp body was resting on his shoulder. He shook his brother to see if he was alive, but he remained motionless. Drew dragged himself out of the car, stood up, and yelled to the nearest police officer,
“Is he dead?”
“Yes he is, the officer replied. You know we have to give you a breathalyzer.”
Pearson didn’t respond. Nothing could be more irrelevant. All he could think about was having to call New Jersey to tell his mother, Minnie, that her youngest son was dead.
The ambulance rushed Drew Pearson to Presbyterian Hospital with a broken clavicle and internal bleeding. The doctors informed him that he had a hole in his liver the size of a softball and they will have to crack the membrane between his ribs to insert tubes to control the flow of blood.
His first thought when he came out of surgery was,
“Why am I spared? I want to be dead. I want my brother to be alive.”
Drew Pearson’s family spent as much time with him as they could, but eventually had to leave for NJ to join their mother in South River to bury Carey. Drew was in no shape to travel and missed the funeral. Much to his surprise, every time he opened his eyes, the emotionless leader of the Dallas Cowboys, the one Drew Pearson felt had no feelings for him at all other than as a football player, Tom Landry, was at his bed side in the hospital. Among others who spent every moment they could at his side were, Roger Staubach and his best friend Harvey Martin. Drew had the comfort of knowing that at least one member of his Cowboys family was there for him at all times. In fact, Tom Landry blew off attending training camp to be there with Drew.
“It makes a big difference when people come to your side, Staubach said. My mother had pancreatic cancer during the 1973 season. I was watching her die at home. If it were not for my family and my teammates, well, it’s just so difficult”.
“They kept me going.”
When Pearson was finally able to return home, Carey had been buried and his family was there for him once again. Drew had fallen in to a deep state of clinical depression. The family was sitting in the living room one day when his mother asked Andre to go in and check on him. When he entered the room Drew yelled,
“Why are you here? I don’t need you. I don’t need anybody.”
Andre left the room and told the family,
“He’s not in his right state,”
Andre understood what he was going through. Drew Pearson had always been the fixer in the family. The one to make things right. He was always the one who was there for the brothers in tough times and told them to be strong. This was unbearable for Drew. He had just gone through a divorce and now he had lost his brother and his career in a crash he couldn’t even remember happening. As Andre said,
“pressure will bust a pipe.”
Drew continued to lash out at his loved ones and eventually realized something was wrong. One of the Dallas Cowboys doctors told him he had clinical depression and needed help.
“I don’t know if I ever got to the point where I would have taken my own life, but I had a tremendous sense of guilt, Pearson remembers now.I didn’t want to live anymore. I just wanted answers to why this happened, why it went down the way it did. Sometimes, you can’t get those answers until you’re gone. I wanted to be gone to find out what the answers were.”
The drinking didn’t help.
“Oh yeah, I turned to the bottle, Pearson said. I drank more than I normally did to mask the pain and depression to get through the day.”
“I don’t know if I was ever an alcoholic, but I needed a crutch. I needed something to fall back on, and that was it for me.”
“I knew it wasn’t real. I knew it wasn’t permanent. But I had all of these thoughts go through my mind, how my family felt when they got the call, that continuously played in my mind. I had to get rid of it.”
Roger Staubach talked about the changes he saw in his good friend.
“He was a different person, He was miserable.
I don’t think you ever get over that.”
The drinking began to subside. The debilitating depression lessened and he slowly got better. Then, March 22 rolled around.
On the day of the accident, you would never see Drew, Andre said. He would just go into his bedroom and close the door. He wouldn’t deal with anybody for a day or so.”
“We would call and reach out to him during that time. He would avoid us. Sometimes, he still does that.”
Everybody grieves differently. Some hold onto grief for quite some time.”
Pearson was struck hard when Jerry Brown’s mother (Stacey Brown) invited Josh Brent to sit with the family at the memorial. When she told the Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and the players that she loves Brent like a son and he needs their support because that was what Jerry would want. Drew Pearson saw the power of forgiveness first hand.
“I haven’t gotten that forgiveness, Pearson said. My family has supported me, but I haven’t really gotten that forgiveness from them where one of them puts their arm around me and says, Drew, it’s all right.”
When Andre was asked if that was true or just the guilt talking he replied,
“The thing is, some people don’t see it, and some people refuse to see it.”
Andre is an associate minister with the Risen Son Baptist Church. He resides in Omaha Nebraska with his wife and Children. He conceded that his brothers and sisters have never been a touchy, feely bunch. He’s not sure how Drew would respond if one of them put their arms around him for comfort. Andre said he’s been there when Drew ranted about how the accident was his fault, how he should have been the one to die, not his little brother. Andre told Drew it’s not his fault, and he needs to forgive himself.
There is a major difference in the stories of Josh Brent and Drew Pearson. Brent was more than two times over the legal limit and faces a charge of intoxication manslaughter. Pearson nursed two beers on the bus ride back from Oklahoma and was not legally drunk at the time of the crash. He was merely exhausted and fell asleep at the wheel. However, there is no difference in the guilt and the emotional state of mind the two share.
“I would love to sit down and let him know what is next, what to expect from here on out, Pearson said. Not a therapist’s or doctor’s view of this, but someone who has been through it.”
“Without a doubt, I still feel guilt. I’ve gotten through a lot of that with my faith, family, friends and fans. I’m able to deal with it.”
“But it’s hard to look my family in the eye to this day. It’s hard for me to be comfortable around them.”
Drew Pearson knows how forgiveness can help Brent heal. But has Drew Pearson ever forgiven himself?
“I don’t know if he has, Andre said. But he does seem different than when things first went bad. A lot different. I think he’s more at peace with the situation than he’s ever been.”
(I would like to give credit to David Moore from SportsDayDFW for the quotes from Drew Pearson and family about the tragic events of 1984.)
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