Pearson, 69, fought back tears while surrounded by family, friends and TV cameras when he found out about the snub. The Cowboys legend spent his entire 11 year career with the franchise. He was a three-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection.
He is the only member of the 1970s All-Decade Team who has not been enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"They broke my heart," Pearson said after learning the disappointing news.
The 15-person Centennial Class includes: former coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson; contributors Steve Sabol, Paul Tagliabue and George Young; and seniors Harold Carmichael, Jim Covert, Bobby Dillon, Cliff Harris, Winston Hill, Alex Karras, Donnie Shell, Duke Slater, Mac Speedle and Ed Sprinkle.
Harris was Pearson's teammate on the Cowboys from 1973 through 1979. The duo won a Super Bowl together in 1978.
"It'll stick with me until later today and after all these texts and internet stuff stops coming through, and I'll move on," Pearson told ESPN. "This is the story of my life. Nothing has ever come easy."
Pearson could still be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at a later date, but might have had a better chance at getting into the class of 2020 due to the increased size of the class.
Several former players came to Pearson's defense when they heard about the snub, including Dez Bryant and Tony Dorsett.
"So disappointed that my man Drew Pearson wasn't selected for Pro Football Hall of Fame," Dorsett tweeted. "He deserves to be there. Great player, great man and great friend."
Pearson had 489 catches for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns during his NFL career. He also earned the nickname "Mr. Clutch" for his habit of stepping it up in important games.