ESPN nicely defines the "Hail Mary"

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The "Hail Mary" is, by definition, a prayer. It is taught to young Catholic children as part of a nightly bedtime ritual. Specifically, this prayer asks for help -- for the intercession on the praying individual's behalf by a celestial figure believed to have the ear of the highest of higher powers.

"Hail Mary" wasn't a football term until 1975, when Dallas Cowboys quarterback and former Catholic school kid Roger Staubach hit Drew Pearson for a 50-yard game winner in the playoffs against the Minnesota Vikings. Asked about the play after the game, Staubach explained that he was knocked down as he threw and had no idea what was happening. "I just closed my eyes," he said, "and said a Hail Mary."
continue at ESPN

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