Ian Pearson played for Exeter City between 1978 and 1981. He joined the club from Millwall and later played for Bideford. He was a member of the team that reached the 6th round of the FA Cup in 1981.
He was playing for Goole Town, and working as a teacher, when offered a Football League chance with Plymouth Argyle in July 1974. After 12 league matches he moved into non-league football with Wycombe Wanderers before returning to the professional ranks with Millwall where he netted nine goals in 44 appearances.
Exeter City paid £25,000 for his services in November 1978 and he soon made his debut against Chester on 18 November 1978. Waiting until the 1980/81 season to cement his place, he played his part in the team reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup as well as scoring four goals in 41 league appearances. He will be long-remembered for his overhead kick in the 5th round FA Cup replay against Newcastle United.
Released at the end of the 1980/81 season, he signed for Bideford before having a second short spell at Plymouth Argyle ahead of Western League stints back at Bideford and at Tiverton Town.