Freeport, Illinois — It’s a story every kid who’s ever put on a football jersey in their life has dreamed of. Running out under the lights playing professional football in the National Football League.
One used to grab my leg and squeeze it during drivers ed classes. A giant of a man he was, Nate Johnson.
Like him, I’ve known wrestling champions, other football champions and various others who are professionals at golf, basketball, skating, volleyball and others.
If you enter the Freeport High School off Empire St., just before you go into the gymnasium there are photos of Freeport’s famous right there on the wall. Or at least they used to be.
Freeport and the people that come from here never cease to amaze me. We’re all one of them in our own way.
While I admit, I am not a huge sports television viewer, I do love sports. I love playing them, going to games and there’s something magical about watching professional football, especially during playoff games.
Seeing the greats such as Payton, Sanders, Staubach, Marino, Dorsett, Singletary, Rice, Montana. Ed ‘too tall’ Jones and watching the greats of today, knowing that Freeport has a special tie to it all is yet another thing about Freeport, most people don’t even know about.
Today, we highlight Freeport born Preston Pearson.
Born January 17, 1945 in Freeport, Illinois) Preston is a former professional American football running back in the National Football League who played for the Baltimore Colts (1967–1969), the Pittsburgh Steelers (1970–1974), and the Dallas Cowboys (1975–1980).
Throughout his NFL career, Pearson was used frequently as a rusher, receiver, and kickoff returner on special teams.
He played for some of the most famous teams of his era, and played in five Super Bowls (Super Bowl III, IX, X, XII, and XIII) – tied for second most all-time.
Pearson also holds the distinction of being one of the few, if not the only, players to have been led by Don Shula, Chuck Noll and Tom Landry — three of the greatest coaches in NFL history with eight Super Bowl titles among them.
In his 14 NFL seasons, he rushed for 3,609 yards, caught 254 passes for 3,095 yards, returned seven punts for 40 yards, and gained 2,801 yards on kickoff returns. Overall, Pearson gained 9,545 total yards and scored 33 touchdown.
So this Sunday, as you sit back to watch New England and Atlanta face off, remember there’s an old Freeport kid named Preston Pearson who grew up to one day share that same stage with some of the greatest football players who have ever lived.
Here’s Pearson in the Cowboys vs. Vikings 1975 Divisional Round Game highlights.
Cover photo: (edited)