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When football teams throw up a desperation heave, everyone knows it as a Hail Mary pass. You can thank Roger Staubach for that.

The phrase’s popularity in the sport can be traced back to Staubach and the Dallas Cowboys celebrating an improbable victory in the 1975 NFC Divisional Round.

Dallas trailed the Minnesota Vikings 14-10, but Staubach hit Drew Pearson for the winning score with 24 seconds remaining. Staubach explained his reaction to the play while appearing on The Dan Patrick Show.



“After the game, an AP writer just said to me, ‘What were you thinking about when you threw the ball?’ I said I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary. I was a Catholic kid from Cincinnati.”

Dallas would ultimately lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl X that season. Still, the Hail Mary to Pearson helped the Cowboys reach make one of their four Super Bowl appearances with Staubach under center.

Staubach, who is a member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame, earned two rings with Dallas during an 11-year career. He also won a Heisman Trophy at Navy.

But the most impactful part of his legacy was coining a phrase football fans use regularly more than 40 years later.


David Kenyon
Writer for Sportsnaut and Bleacher Report, mostly covering college football as well as the NFL, NBA and college basketball.