Pearson was born and raised in South River, New Jersey, and began his football career at South River High School where he succeeded Joe Theismann as quarterback.

Pearson attended the University of Tulsa and started four games at quarterback as a sophomore, before being converted to wide receiver prior to the 1971 season. He caught 22 passes for 429 yards and three touchdowns his junior season. As a senior, he led the run-oriented Golden Hurricane with 33 receptions for 690 yards and 3 touchdowns. During his college career he caught 55 passes for 1,119 yards, six touchdowns and had a 20.3 yard average per reception.

Pearson received the University’s President’s Award as the team’s “best spirited and most unselfish” member. In 1985, he was inducted into the Tulsa Athletics Hall of Fame.