On a cold December Sunday at Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium in 1975, the Vikings were on the verge of winning an NFC divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. There were 24 seconds left and Cowboys’ quarterback Roger Staubach needed a miracle if he had any hopes of winning the game. On a fourth down play that looked hopeless, Staubach launched the ball up in the air towards wide receiver Drew Pearson. Against all odds, Pearson caught the 50-yard throw and walked right into the end zone to win the game for the Cowboys, stunning the Minnesota crowd and sending the Cowboys to the NFC Championship game.
Staubach said to reporters after the game, “I just closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary,” praying that Pearson would catch the ball and score a touchdown. Ever since Staubach mentioned his last-minute prayer, football teams at every level have called plays where the quarterback lofts up the football for anyone to grab in the end-zone a “Hail Mary” pass. Most recently quarterback Aaron Rodgers has become well-known for the surprising success rate of his “Hail Mary” passes, often winning games (or pulling ahead) in the final seconds.
While the phrase no longer has any connection to the Catholic prayer, Staubach did in fact pray that prayer in 1975 and continues to do so. According to an article in People Magazine, “Staubach’s religious convictions were shaped early as a schoolboy in Cincinnati, where his father, a wholesale shoe salesman, was a devout Catholic. By the time Roger got to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, he was attending [Mass] every morning. (In chapel Staubach once reprimanded some fellow midshipmen for falling asleep.)”
Staubach became involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes while serving in the Navy and remains a sought-after speaker who is not afraid to tell others about the Good News of Jesus Christ. A few years ago, while addressing students at a Catholic school’s career day in Dallas, Staubach encouraged those present to remain strong in the faith through any adversity.
“Life has its twists and turns… The important thing is having the perseverance to maintain your faith and do the right things as you deal with the obstacles. There will be challenges that you will face, but you are going to help each other and you are going to get through it and people are going to help you.”
In reference to his famous “Hail Mary” pass, Staubach said to the students, “I could have said the ‘Our Father’ or ‘The Glory Be.’ It could be the ‘Glory Be Pass’… The Blessed Virgin is very proud of me. We have a great relationship because of that.”
In the end, it is true that God does not take sides in professional sports, but what about the Blessed Mother?