Origin of the "Hail Mary Pass"

I agree with Brian at MCH that the term "Hail Mary Pass" is a cliché, but at least it is our cliché.  Here's the origin of the term.
In the Dallas/Minnesota 1975 NFL playoff game, the Cowboys started with the ball on their own 15-yard line, trailing 14-10, with one minute and fifty-one seconds left in the fourth quarter. Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach(a staunch Catholic) managed a nine-play drive to midfield against the Minnesota Vikings defense. From midfield, with 24 seconds now remaining, Staubach lined up in the shotgun formation, took the snap, pump-faked left, then turned to his right and threw a desperation pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson, who was being covered by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Nate Wright. Wright was pushed in the back and fell to the ground and Pearson was barely able to complete the catch by trapping the ball against his right hip at the 5-yard line and backing into the end zone to make the score 16-14 in favor of Dallas, and what would eventually be the winning touchdown. In a later interview with Pearson, he stated that he thought he dropped the ball only to find it against his hip and then just waltzed right into the end zone.

The term "Hail Mary pass" was used by Roger Staubach following the game in a post-game interview. Previous to this play, a last-second desperation pass had been called several names, most notably the "Alley-Oop". Staubach, who had been hit immediately after throwing the ball and didn't see its ending, was asked about the play and he said, "You mean [Pearson] caught the ball and ran in for the touchdown? It was just a Hail Mary pass; a very, very lucky play." Staubach told reporters "I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary". This was among the plays by Roger Staubach that enhanced his fame and legend as noted in NFL.
You may know Badgers football suffered the losing end of one of these plays on Saturday.  I'm told LarryD may have said a Hail Mary.  If the two teams match up again in the championship game, I'll be sure to pray that he falls asleep rendering him unable to invoke the Theotokos. 

"Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?"

... if you keep watching you can see the Viking fans hit an official in the head with a whiskey bottle.

It is really cool to see the Vikings playing outdoors though.

Doesn't the broadcaster sound like long time Packers radio sportcaster Jim Irwin?


  1. OK, a few things.

    1) I was praying that MSU would complete the Hail Mary pass. I wasn't specifically praying the Hail Mary at the time.

    2) I watched the clip. What made me laugh was when the commentator spoke about Bud Grant, and whether or not he would have some comments about the officiating on the TD pass "and he might get hit with a $500 fine from the commissioner". Hah! $500! My, how things have changed.

    3) They only had one camera for the replay. Today's games there are, what, about 6 different angles? Some day they'll be using satellite images.

    4) I noticed that the Cowboys D-line didn't do any crazy Sack Dances after twisting Tarkenton into a purple pretzel. I miss the days of -0- showboating.

  2. Haha, I didn't catch the $500 fine bit. That is funny.

    Let's just say I would have been happy if that one crucial camera angle had been lost due to some large guy coming back to his seat from the bathroom.

    I'll have to be honest that I like a little showboating myself - overdone it's boring, but I guess what I'm saying is I love that Clay Matthews commercial where the guy is doing his crouch while mowing the lawn.

  3. This is an incomplete truth guys. It is well known to traditional Catholic football fans such as myself that the term 'Hail Mary play/pass' originated with Knute Rockne - in fact it was the main attraction for me to get into football. Here it is:

    1922 — On October 28, 1922, the term "Hail Mary play" was used by Knute Rockne's Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a victory over Georgia Tech. Notre Dame trailed 3-0 in the second half and had been unable to move the ball effectively. Noble Kizer, the one Presbyterian player on the Notre Dame team, stopped play and said to his teammates, "Boys, let's have a Hail Mary." They all prayed, and Elmer Layden scored a touchdown. On the next possession, Kizer said, "Let's have another Hail Mary," and Layden scored another touchdown. After the game, Kizer said, "Say, that Hail Mary is the best play we've got."[1]

    Hail Mary pass or play - doesn't matter - the origin of the term came from Rockne.

  4. I will admit when I looked this up Terry, I thought I remembered it did come from a Notre Dame game but it seemed that the colloquialism was first popularized after the Staubach comment.

    Upon further review, I will give you Rockne as originator - but I think Staubach still gets popularizer.

  5. I think you are right - cool history though.

  6. Terry, are you a Vikings fan and if so, have you ever thrown any objects at a referee?

  7. Terry would never waste a bottle of whiskey that way...


Please contact matt@badgercatholic.com if you have issues commenting.