Friday, February 23, 2018

From Stuhldreher to Castner and Crowley to Staubach - a Last-Second History of the "Hail Mary Pass"

Hail Mary pass : a long forward pass in football thrown into or near the end zone in a last-ditch attempt to score as time runs out —often used figuratively. Merriam-Webster online.

The expression “Hail Mary pass” is generally believed to have taken its permanent place in American pop-culture on December 28, 1975, when Roger Staubach heaved a miraculous 50-yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson with 24 seconds left in the game to cap a 17-14 comeback victory over the Minnesota Vikings.  In the aftermath of the game, Staubach described the pass:

I guess you’d call it a Hail Mary pass.  You throw it up and pray he catches it.[i]

The term does not seem to have been widely used before that game, as evidenced by a contemporary report explaining that, “Staubach a Catholic called the bomb to Pearson a ‘Hail Mary’ pass.”  But the expression, itself, was not new.  Roger Staubach himself had been throwing “Hail Mary” passes, by that name, since at least 1963,[ii] sportswriter Bill Shefski used the expression regularly in the Philadelphia Daily News from as early as 1961, and a smattering of references to “Hail Mary” passes appeared in print in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. 

In a parallel development, Catholic-school basketball teams had been shooting “Hail Mary shots” since at least 1931[iii]:

Sister Helen Rose, at St. Peter’s High, calls Miss Virginia Bahash’s shots, “Hail Mary shots.”  You know the kind – give ‘em a fling and breathe a prayer.  And for those who might wonder who Miss Virginia Bahash is we’ll whisper to you that she’s St. Peter’s star forward who not so long ago made good on thirteen out of fourteen foul attempts, in a single game.

The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New  Jersey), March 4, 1931, page 13.

The expression “Hail Mary shot” was itself an apparent variant of the earlier, more generic “prayer shot” which dates to at least 1916:

Scranton was first to score in the nightcap, a foul goal by Long making the totals 11 to 10. Muller followed with a prayer shot for a deuce that sent Nanticoke ahead but Berger came through with a two pointer that again changed the leadership.

The Scranton Republican (Scranton, Pennsylvania), December 26, 1916, page 10.[iv]

Years before “Hail Mary passes,” as such, appear in the record, ex-Notre Dame star Jim Crowley frequently told anecdotes about “Hail Mary” plays, in which players said “Hail Marys” in the huddle before big plays or in desperate situations.  He told the stories so frequently that a sportswriter said of a humorous basketball story in 1935, that it, “rivals the famous ‘Hail Mary!’ story that Jimmy Crowley told so often.”[v]

Jim Crowley had the ear of sportswriters and held the attention of the public because he was one of the most famous football players of his day, as famous (or more) as Staubach was in his day.  Crowley was one of the “Four Horsemen” in Notre Dame’s backfield during their first undefeated National Championship season in 1924.  The “Four Horsemen” were immortalized in arguably the most memorable piece of sports journalism ever written, Grantland Rice’s account of Notre Dame’s 13-7 win over Army in 1924  (See Game Highlights here):

Four Horsemen of Notre Dame Ride to Victory Over Army Team
Powerful Cadet Line
Buckles Before Speed
Of Brilliant Backfield

Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again.  In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death.  These are only aliases.  Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.  They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon, as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.

The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), October 19, 1924, page 60 (also appearing in several other newspapers nationwide).

Ironically, perhaps, Jim Crowley’s “Hail Mary” stories related back to a time when Notre Dame football was led by a non-Catholic head coach, the legendary Knute Rockne, and the person he credited with suggesting the first in-huddle “Hail Mary” was a Presbyterian.  Real Catholics, I suppose, may have (correctly?) assumed that it would be blasphemous to invoke the Virgin’s name for something as earthly as football success – that is, until it worked.  But times change; now, even “Touchdown Jesus” (Notre Dame’s famous mural showing the “Son of God” – his hands aloft in a pose similar a football referee’s touchdown signal) might approve of the practice.

And in a further irony, although “Hail Mary” passed into the national consciousness in the aftermath of a Minnesota Vikings’ loss, Notre Dame’s earlier “Hail Mary” play has even deeper (if tangential) ties to the Vikings’ conference rival, the Green Bay Packers.  Jim Crowley played one year of high school football under coach Curly Lambeau (the founder of the Green Bay Packers and namesake of their stadium), briefly for the Green Bay Packers during the 1925 season, and coached Vince Lombardi (legendary Packers’ coach and namesake of the Super Bowl trophy) during his college playing days at Fordham in the 1930s. 

“Hail Mary” – Notre Dame’s “best play.”

“Rock’s football attack,” a foe once jeered, “consisted of 5 Hail Marys and 11 All-Americans.”

“A New Rockne, With Hair,” Jim Murray, The Des Moines Register (Iowa), December 3, 1964, page 18.

The earliest example of a Notre Dame “Hail Mary” anecdote I could find is a single reference, published in 1931, to a game against the New York Giants professional football team in 1930.  The story appeared a few weeks before Sister Helen Rose’s “Hail Mary” shot, so it is possible that the football usage preceded the basketball usage.

In 1930, Knute Rockne led Notre Dame to its third undefeated National Championship season and second in a row.  To close out the season, Knute Rockne agreed to a season-ending charity match against the New York Giants, to be played in New York City one week after its season finale in Los Angeles against the University of Southern California.  To boost ticket sales and reinforce his tired team of younger players coming off a long season, he bolstered his roster with a who’s-who of Notre Dame stars from the past, including all of the Four Horsemen from his 1924 team.  The reinforcements were not just old players coming off the couch.  Nearly all of them were still involved in football as college coaches, and some of them had played professionally in the recent past.

Although a game between professionals and collegians may sound ridiculous today, the college game and college players of the time enjoyed a better public reputation than the professionals.  American football rose to prominence as a collegiate sport, and had been popular for several decades.  And although “professional” or semi-professional football had been around for about thirty years, mostly outside the limelight in smaller Midwestern cities, the NFL was still fighting for respect in only its tenth season.  And the professionals, although bigger, stronger, more experienced and more mature, were not the beneficiaries of today’s money, training, diet or marketing machine. 

Even Knut Rockne had actively advocated an opposition to professional football:

Tampa Times, January 26, 1922, page 10.

“Professionalism is the big menace to college football.

Unless the tendency in that direction is curtailed it may be necessary to abolish the game as an intercollegiate sport.” – Knut Rockne, 1922.

But this game may have helped put that misunderstanding to rest.  It did not go well for the collegians, they lost the game 22-0, with only one first down, zero completed passes, two interceptions, and without ever advancing the ball past the 50 yard line (for more details of the game, see “The Time Notre Dame Played the New York Giants (for the Unemployed!),” Ethan Trex, 

Notre Dame never had a prayer – or rather, they only had a prayer:
Crowley said that after a few minutes of that game the Four Horsemen stalled on every play by saying four or five “Hail marys” in the huddle; but that after a while they could not do any better than the “Amen.”

Green Bay Press-Gazette, January 3, 1931, page 15.

Crowley later told and retold a second “Hail Mary” anecdote, which was widely published and republished throughout the 1930s.  The story recounted events in a game played against Georgia Tech in 1922, when Crowley was a starting, sophomore halfback for Notre Dame.  It was Notre Dame’s first foray into the Deep South, so the game had was closely watched as the first test of regional powerhouses.    Notre Dame won the game 13-3, coming from behind to score two touchdowns.  Georgia Tech’s five fumbles (to Notre Dame’s one) were the determining factor.  But Jim Crowley credited the win to the recitation of a “Hail Mary” before each of their two touchdowns.

This is the earliest version of the story I could find:

In 1922 Notre Dame had . . . ten sophomores and a senior in the starting lineup . . . .  It so happened that the senior was a good Presbyterian, the other ten of Catholic faith.

Tech smashed down the field in the first few minutes of play but we finally managed to stop them on the 30-yard line.  From this point they booted a field goal giving them a 3-to-0 lead.  Layden was doing some magnificent punting and in the third quarter he lifted a high, twisting spiral down the field which “Red” Barron, the Tech safety man, muffed.  We recovered on the 10-yard line but in three plays were thrown back to the 20-yard strip.  It was fourth down.

Back came the Presbyterian and said to us, ‘Boys, let’s say a Hail Mary.  We prayed an on the next play Layden crashed over for a touchdown.  We kicked goal and led 7 to 3 but still things didn’t look rosy.  Tech was again pressing when Layden got off another kick and the formula was repeated.  Barron fumbled and again we tried three plays but without success.  Let’s say another Hail Mary,” said the Presbyterian.  Again Layden ran through a big hole for a touchdown.

That night I encountered the Presbyterian standing against the cigar counter of the hotel.  “Say, Jimmy,” he said, “you can’t tell me that Hail Mary doesn’t work.  That’s the best play we’ve got”

Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) January 1, 1932, page 28 (see, Ben Zimmer, Word on the Street: 'Hail Mary,' From the Gridiron to Politics, The Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2013).

It’s a good story, and one that may even be essentially true, despite from diverging from the actual facts of the game.  Later retellings of the story identify the Presbyterian as Nobel Kizer, who was, in fact, a Presbyterian.  Kizer did play in the game, but he was not then a senior.  Like Crowley, he was a sophomore in 1922.  Furthermore, the story claims that Elmer Layden ran for the two second-half “Hail Mary” touchdowns, but contemporary accounts of the game show that Layden did not score any touchdowns that day.  They did score two touchdowns, but only one in the second half.

It is not clear whether Crowley simply forgot unimportant details or intentionally embellished the story for dramatic or humorous effect.  But if the deviations from fact were intentional, he may have learned the art of telling a tall tale from his old coach.  Knute Rockne is best known today for his “win one for the Gipper” speech at halftime of Notre Dame’s 1928 game against Army.  At halftime, Knute gave a rousing, emotional speech, invoking a purported death-bed request by former Notre Dame player, George Gipp, who died during his senior season in 1920. 

During halftime, with the score tied 0-0, Rockne addressed his players.  “Boys, I want to tell you a story I never thought I’d have to tell.”  He then related what he claims was one of Gipp’s last requests.  As Rockne told the story (there were no other witnesses), Gipp said, “Sometime, when the team is up against it, when things are going wrong, and the breaks are beating the boys – tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.”   Rockne insisted that the story was true, despite there being some question about whether Gipp would have been too modest to have made such a request. 

True or not, the Gipp speech was not the first time Knut Rockne had invoked the name of an ailing boy to inspire his team.  In 1975, Crowley recalled a pre-game speech six seasons before the Gipp speech, in which Rockne tearfully asked the team to win the game for his son Billy who was home with an illness.  It was a complete fabrication.  Coincidentally, the speech was delivered before the 1922 Georgia Tech game that is said to have featured the first two “Hail Mary” plays:

“I remember a game with Georgia Tech where our Notre Dame team wasn’t given a chance to win.  Georgia Tech had just whipped navy, 45 to 0, the week before.  We had just an average ball club.

“An hour before game time, Mr. Rockne came into the clubhouse with head bowed, tears in his eyes, lips trembling.

“’Boys,’ he said, solemnly, ‘we’re not given much of a chance to beat Georgia Tech.  I know this.  But, I want you to win this game for my boy, Billy, who is ill.  I have a telegram here sent by Billy asking you to win this game for him.  Now, go out and beat the hell out of Georgia Tech!’

“We didn’t wait for him to finish his speech.  We were so worked up, we jumped up, knocked Mr. Rockne down and blasted our way through the doors without opening them.  We were on the field 20 minutes before Georgia Tech came out.

“The Ramblin’ Wreck players gave us the physical beating of our lives, but when the game was over, the score was Notre Dame 13, Georgia Tech 3.  We won the game for Billy, but almost got killed doing so.

“They had a big crowd at the South Bend station welcoming our limping, battered Irish team.  Guess who was front and center, looking like a Milk Fed healthy boy?  Billy, who else?”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 10, 1975, page 15.

A healthy Billy Rockne, several years after his fake illness.  Detroit Free Press, October 31 1926 page 23.

If Rockne lied about the health of his own son Billy, might he also have lied in 1928 about a death-bed request made by a former player eight years earlier?  And if Rockne used false or misleading stories to motivate his players, did Crowley similarly embellish his anecdotes to entertain his listeners?  Whether intentional or not, Crowley’s sick-Billy anecdote itself, for example, was mistaken on at least one detail.  Georgia Tech had played Navy the week before, but it lost the game by a score of 13-0, as opposed to winning 45-0.  Georgia Tech was, however, highly regarded, having outscored its three previous opponents by 83-13, including a 33-7 win over Alabama.  Chalk it up to failing memory and the passage of time, or to intentional embellishment for rhetorical purposes?  In either case, the sick-Billy story (if it is to be believed) may give more fuel to the win-one-for-the-Gipper doubters.

Crowley’s 1930s accounts of the original “Hail Mary” plays against Georgia Tech in 1922 had similar factual inaccuracies.  But in hindsight, the real story may be more interesting, particularly in light of the current, pass-specific meaning of “Hail Mary.”  If the general details of Crowley’s account of the first in-huddle “Hail Mary” against Georgia Tech are true, the first “Hail Mary” play was also the first “Hail Mary” pass.

Notre Dame did score its first touchdown shortly after “Red” Barron fumbled during a punt return, but it was in the second quarter, not the third.  And instead of recovering on the 10 yard line and being pushed back to the 20 before scoring a touchdown on fourth down, they recovered on the Georgia Tech 22 yard line, made a first down at the 11 yard line, advanced the ball to the 6 yard line on two short runs and were then stuffed for no gain on third down.  Then they scored with a fourth down pass from Stuhldreher to Castner.  Castner, the star of the game, later had perhaps the worst major league pitching career in history.  He gave up 14 hits with 5 walks and no strikeouts in 10 innings of relief pitching for the Chicago White Sox between August 6 and October 3, 1923.

If Crowley’s story is true, Stuhldreher threw the pass after saying a “Hail Mary” in the huddle, making it arguably the first “Hail Mary” pass.

Atlanta Constitution, October 29, 1922, page 1D.
 "Price caught Castner as he was about to receive the forward pass that gave Notre Dame its first touchdown."

Notre Dame’s second touchdown also came after a punt, but not as a result of another Georgia Tech fumble, as Crowley said.  Early in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame pinned Georgia Tech deep in its own territory, forcing a punt giving Notre Dame the ball on the Georgia Tech 40 yard line.  Notre Dame advanced the ball to the 10 yard line with pass completions of twenty and fifteen yards, while losing five yards on an off sides penalty.  Then “Stuhldreher rammed center for a short gain and a touchdown.  Castner failed to kick goal.”

Fordham’s “Hail Mary”

Whether true in all of its particulars or not, Jim Crowley’s frequent retelling of the original “Hail Mary” story from his Notre Dame playing days may have helped cement the phrase’s position in sporting circles.  But Crowley did not just live in the past.  He took a similarly prayerful approach to his coaching duties at another Catholic school, Fordham University.  In December 1933, during a return visit to Green Bay following his first year at Fordham (Vince Lombardi’s freshman year), someone asked Crowley about Fordham’s ambitious 1934 schedule, which included the likes of West Virginia, Southern Methodist University, Tennessee, and Purdue:

“What will you have to send up against those teams?” someone asked.

“Six regulars, the water-boy and plenty of ‘Hail-Mary’s,’” Jim replied grinning.

Green Bay Press-Gazette, December 22, 1933, page 13.

Other Hail Mary’s”

Golfers were also known to say “Hail Mary’s” before a big match:

Tommy Armour, paired with Mike Brady yesterday, was requested Saturday night to say four Hail Mary’s for Mike yesterday.  The order came from Mrs. Mike.  Tommy compromised by saying three for Mike and one for himself – and it appears that a Scot doesn’t benefit from an Irish Hail Mary.

The Miami News, January 8, 1934, page 8.

In 1934, Notre Dame’s quarterback William Shakespeare (no, really) heaved a long pass for a touchdown:

Particularly in the first period, did Master Will Shakespeare, about whom I promise you I will not make a single, solitary pun, heave a wild, long pass high into the air.  This pass carried on it several “Hail Mary’s,” not to mention the special blessings of Rome.  It was fired with devout faith, as I say, by Master Shakespeare who was at the time greatly harassed by Army rushers.  Far down the field, 30 yards, to be exact, stood a Notre Dame end by the name of Dominic Vairo, the captain of the team.  On either side of Mr. Vairo stood two West Point students, Mr. Ducrot and Mr. Dumbjohn, I suspect.  “He is yours, Mr. Ducrot,” said Mr. Dumbjohn.  “You do me too great honor, Mr. Dumbjohn,” replied Mr. Ducrot.  “He belongs to you, I am certain,” insisted the other.  At this juncture, Captain Vairo leaped into the air, caught the football and ran it over the goal line, a distance of some 20 yards from the point of the catch.

 Detroit Free Press, November 25, 1934, Sports page 1.

Since this pass was in the first quarter, and not thrown into the end-zone in desperation, it would not qualify as a “Hail Mary pass” by today’s standards, but it is clear that the foundation had been laid for the expression that would later become a fixture in American sports and pop-culture.

William Shakespeare was involved in another “Hail Mary” pass play in the original “Game of the Century” against Ohio State on November 2, 1935.  With 32 seconds remaining in the game and Notre Dame trailing the Buckeyes 13-12 (after having trailed 13-0) and with the ball on the Ohio State 19 yard line, Shakespeare stopped mid-scramble to heave a desperation pass into the end-zone, where it slipped through a Buckeye defender’s hands into the arms of Wayne Millner for the game-winning touchdown.[vi]   Several weeks later, Notre Dame’s coach, Elmer Layden (one of the original Four Horsemen), said that the pass was “a ’Hail Mary’ play that Notre Dame kept in its arsenal.”[vii]

The coaches and players were not the only ones saying their “Hail Mary’s” that day.  A fan listening to the game on his radio also took some credit for the victory:

“Do you know, ma’am,” he said, “I had the last word of me third ‘Hail Mary’ just barely out of me mouth when they made the winnin’ goal?  I said them right into the loud speaker.”

Chicago Tribune, November 13, 1935, page 17.

In 1936, St. Peter Claver High School in New York City[viii] hit three “Hail Mary” shots in a second-half rally that helped them turn a 12-22 halftime deficit into a 50-21 win over St. Lucy’s:

Confident of walking away with an easy victory, St. Lucy’s failed to continue their defensive guarding in the second half.  It should be recorded, however, that Skippy Hollon heaved three “Hail Mary” shots through the cords to put the colored team into a threatening position.  Stretch Stewart and Dolly Williams contributed the balance of the scoring for Claver.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 23, 1936, page 20.

Different versions of Jim Crowley’s “Hail Mary” story appeared throughout the 1930s.  In one instance, the person retelling the story made the player saying the first “Hail Mary” Jewish, instead of Presbyterian, but for the most part the story generally remained the same.  And Notre Dame football teams continued saying their “Hail Mary’s,” and not just for pass plays:

Brennan said little at the half to his team.  “We weren’t too worried but worried enough to say three ‘Hail Marys,’” the Irish coach grinned when he was asked about it later.

Indianapolis Star, October 17, 1954, Sports, page 1.

“Hail Mary Pass”

The “Hail Mary pass,” as such, appears to have been coming into its own by 1940, if only within a limited circle.  And once again it was at a Catholic school, Georgetown University, located in Washington DC:

A “Hail Mary” pass, in the talk of the Washington eleven, is one that is thrown with a prayer because the odds against completion are big.

Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida), December 31, 1940, page 11, column 6.[ix]

It is not clear how widespread or persistent this usage was throughout the following decade.  I could not find any evidence of similar usage until 1959 when it appeared in connection with a little known Protestant variant, suggesting that “Hail Mary” had been in regular use for some time.  Former Yale and professional football player, Fritz Barzilauskas, used the expression in his analysis of an upcoming game between Cornell and Yale:

Apparently Cornell can pass a little, too.  Saturday, they came from behind to beat Harvard on a spectacular 65-yard heave from Dick McKelvey to Phil Taylor with only 24 seconds left.

“They call it their Martin Luther play,” the Yale scout said.  “The same thing at Notre Dame would be called the Hail Mary pass.”

The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut), October 13, 1959.

During the following season, not far down the road from Notre Dame, Evansville beat Ball State on the strength of a late-game, desperation touchdown pass.  This example may be noteworthy as it is the earliest example I’ve seen of a “Hail Mary” in football or basketball that did not refer explicitly to a Catholic school.

Muncie Star photographer Harold Smith caught in these two pictures the decisive maneuver in Ball State’s heart-breaking 10-7 Home-coming loss to Evansville Saturday at Ball State Field.
 With only one minute, 32 seconds remaining, and Ball State leading, 7-3, and the biggest upset of the Indiana Collegiate Confeence season all but wrapped up, an Evansville halfback named Don LeDuc rolled out to his left and heaved a mile-long pass to an end named Larry Duncan.  The result was a 58-yard completion and Evansville’s only touchdown. . . .  “I was real lucky on that pass,” [LeDuc] remarked.  It was that last Hail Mary I said that did it.  It was just in the books.”

The Star Press (Muncie, Indiana), October 9, 1960, page 17.

In 1961, Philadelphia sports columnist, Bill Shefski, quoted a long-time Villanova football fan’s description of the 1927 (well, actually, it was 1929) game between Villanova and Boston College, both Catholic schools.  His description of the pass reflects the modern sense of what a “Hail Mary pass” looks like:

“They were flying high,” he reminisced.  “Major Kavanaugh was coaching ‘em then.  They had beaten Yale and some of those big clubs. . . .  They wound up on their five-yard-line on fourth down.  I felt good.  Then on fourth down they threw a ‘Hail Mary’ pass (long, arching pass) and darned if they didn’t score a touchdown on it to tie us.”

Philadelphia Daily News, October 21, 1961, page 27.

In 1962, “Harvard, with an 80-yard “Hail Mary” pass, [was] the only team to score a touchdown against Dartmouth all season.”[x]  And “Mike [McCoy, of the University of Miami basketball team] [was] looking for his opportunities . . ., rather than shooting so many ‘Hail Mary’ shots.”[xi]

Again in 1962, Bill Shefski quoted another Philadelphia native, Tony Colletta, who was recounting his role in the “Greatest Game of Them All,” the 1945 City championship of Philadelphia. 

“I was lucky I spotted (Aaron) Telinske.  It was a ‘Hail Mary’ pass. . . .  I was around the 40 yard line, when I spotted Telinske in the clear and just threw his way and prayed.  He caught it and walked into the end zone.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was a ‘Hail Mary’ pass – throw and pray.”

Philadelphia Daily News, December 4, 1962.

Thanks to research by baseball historian and blogger Gary Ashwill, of, it’s now known that Roger Staubach, a devout Catholic whose aunt, Sister Mary Antonella Staubach, was a Catholic hospital administrator in Louisville, Kentucky , used the term as early as 1964, but not in the now conventional sense.  While narrating a highlight reel of his 1963 heroics, the season he won the Heismann Trophy, he referred to a pass play in Navy’s 26-13 win over Michigan as a “Hail Mary play,” even though the play resulted in a measley one-yard gain.[xii]

First NFL “Hail Mary”

In 1971, four seasons before Roger Staubach threw a “Hail Mary pass” in the glare of the playoffs’ spotlight, Bill Shefski described what may be the first known reference in print to an NFL “Hail Mary” pass thrown by the Philadelphia Eagles in a tie-game against the Washington Redskins.  But again, the expression referred a play that would not fit neatly into the current understanding of the term. 

Another sideline discussion led to what the sandlotters call the “Hail, Mary” play – a long pass and a prayer.  Liske arched the ball toward Harold Jackson who ran a fly pattern right at Mike Bass.  Jackson caught the ball at the 25 and Bass smashed him to the ground, staying on top of him as the clock crept down to zero.

Philadelphia Daily News, November 8, 1971, page 64.

The pass was not thrown into the end-zone, but it did give the Eagles an opportunity to rush down field to line up for a winning field goal as time expired – but time did expire, and the game ended in a tie.

Not quite as dramatic as Staubach’s game-winning pass over the Vikings in a playoff win four seasons later.  It’s no wonder the term didn’t catch on in a big way until a successful “Hail Mary” was thrown in a Nationally televised playoff game.

Fast-forward four decades and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers raised the “Hail Mary” to high art with three successful “Hail Mary” passes in a 23 game span between December 2015 and January 2017, including two in playoff games.

Ex-Packer and Green Bay East High star Jim Crowley, his high school and professional coach Curley Lambeau, and his Fordham lineman Vince Lombardi must be so proud. 

Hail Mary!

[i] Gary Ashwill, “Hail Mary,”, October 29, 2010.
[ii] Gary Ashwill, “Hail Mary,”, October 29, 2010 (“In an NBC broadcast in 1964, Staubach called a pass he’d completed for Navy in a 26-13 win over Michigan in 1963 ‘a Hail Mary play.’”).
[v] Lansing State Journal (Lansing, Michigan), January 8, 1935, page 13.
[vi] Gary Ashwill, “Hail Mary,”, October 29, 2010.
[vii] Gary Ashwill, “Hail Mary,”, October 29, 2010 (citing Edward J. Neil’s column in the Florence (South Carolina) Morning News, December 2, 1935.
[viii] For more on St. Peter Claver’s basketball team, see, “The Life and Times of John Isaacs, Basketball’s Boy Wonder,’” Part 1, Claude Johnson,, September 29, 2015 ( ).
[ix] This cite was first identified by Bill Mullins, posting on the ADS-L, January 17, 2018, which sparked my investigation into the history of the “Hail Mary pass.”
[x] Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), November 15, 1962, page 15.
[xi] The Miami News, November 16, 1962.
[xii] Gary Ashwill, “Hail Mary,”, October 29, 2010.