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Barry Pearson, Steelers Wide Receiver, 1972-1973

December 6, 2011

Barry Pearson:

First, can you tell readers what you are doing with your time these days?

I am CEO of HPC Foodservice which is a broadline foodservice distributor  based in Connecticut. I’ve been here for almost thirty-two years. I’m also on a couple of industry and charity boards.

You came to the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 1972. How did you decide to try out with the Steelers and what do you think convinced them to keep you on the roster?

My decision to sign with the Steelers wasn’t really difficult.  I had a number of teams that wanted to sign me and I selected the Steelers because Lionel Taylor, the recievers coach, had come to Northwestern and watched me practice and spent time talking to me and actually called and wanted to sign me, not some scout that I had never met.                 

As far as making the roster, you hope you get enough opportunities to show that you belong and I guess I accomplished that.

There’s a good deal of stress involved in making an NFL roster – especially as a free agent. How did you deal with that stress and let off steam?

There is no doubt that trying to make a NFL roster is stressful. I dealt with it on a day-to-day basis because I had to critique each day on how I felt I performed in practice and hope to get feedback from my coach and then go through the agony of the days when they where required to trim their rosters.

I have to say the worst day in your life is that final day when they decide which 45 guys stay.

Who were the guys you lined up against in practice that gave you the toughest time – and how?

All the guys I lined up against were great otherwise they wouldn’t be there but there was no doubt that the best was Mel Blount,who as we all know was big, fast, and very physical. One thing about Mel was he made you a better player because you had to work to beat him and that wasn’t easy.

That Steelers team was on the cusp of big things. Could you tell that in 1972 – what was your sense of the mindset of the team and it’s ability to be a great team?

I believe as the season went on we could feel that there was something special happening.  I really think it was our defense that set the tempo of our mindset. 

We also had a good mix of older veterans and young players which generated more emotion and enthusiasm to the team.

However, the real key was when you started to win –  as you know that can be very contagious.

Who were the guys that helped mentor you as a rookie and enabled you to adjust?

There were a couple of great guys, Ron Shanklin and Frank Lewis, who helped me become a better player and most of all my coach and friend, Lionel Taylor, who I can’t thank enough for all that he did for me.

What are your most lasting memories of those Steelers teams -and what makes them so?

I was the one who brought in the play for the Immaculate Reception. The play call was half-right, split opposite 66 out end in – it was supposed to go to me but the line broke down on the right side and forced Bradshaw to move to his left. He couldn”t throw acros the field of course, so  and he had to throw in desperation to Frenchy. I was wide open too – the play was only meant to get a first down.

It was fourth and ten and there was still over a minute left – there was plenty of time to move the ball and try to score later. No one expected Franco to pick up the ball and score a touchdown!

That’s one play I will never forget.

What was your biggest adjustment to the NFL – both on and off the field?

The biggest adjustment to the NFL was the players were bigger, faster, stronger, and smarter than what you faced in college.

Who were the guys you remember most as locker room leaders and jokesters – what do you remember most about those guys?

I’ll start with the jokester, Frenchy Fuqua, need I say more? The more prominent leaders I would say were Andy Russell,( quite and reserved but very smart), and Joe Greene,( emotional player and great leader).

You had a nice season in ’83 – twenty-three catches and three touchdowns. How did you break through to be able to contribute and how gratifying was it to have that kind of success year two as an undrafted free agent?

I got lucky in 1973, Frank Lewis pulled a hamstring prior to the opening game against Detroit and I got to start. I caught six passes and got the game ball and that was the beginning for me. Without that opportunity I’m not sure what would have happened so I considered myself very fortunate.

At the end of the ’73 season you left the Steelers for the Chiefs. What brought that on and how difficult was it for you to leave that Steelers team?

I didn’t leave the Steelers voluntarily, but that was the year of the strike and they drafted two pretty good receivers, Swann and Stallworth, so apparently I was expendable and they traded me to Kansas City. I loved playing for the Steelers but the choice was either playing or watching so I appreciated being traded.

Any last thoughts for readers?

To me being able to say that I was part of those teams that started the Steelers dynasty is truly amazing. I was able to play with some of the greatest names in NFL history and be part of the one of the greatest plays ever (Immaculate Reception).

What could be better than that?

What I find interesting is that when I tell people I played for the Steelers and the Chiefs and then they introduce me to their friend they always say I played for the Steelers and never mention the Chiefs even though I play longer for the Chiefs. That tells me that people have a special feeling for the Steelers.

For me it was honor to and a privilege to play for such a great organization.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mark Brown permalink
    October 5, 2015 11:50 pm

    I remember watching Barry Pearson and Steve Penny playing high school football in Geneseo, Il when I was a child growing up there. Those 2 guys were unstoppable and started a high school powerhouse in Illinois that lives on to this day

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