Hail Mary play or Hail Mary pass

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Hail Mary play and Hail Mary pass are American sports terms. We will look at the meaning of Hail Mary play and Hail Mary pass, where the terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

A Hail Mary play is a desperate play in sports that has a very small chance of being successful. The idea is that the team member making the play does so while saying a prayer that it will be successful, alluding to the Catholic prayer the Hail Mary. The term goes back to the 1920s, it was used by the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame, an outstanding group of players on the college football team, to describe a desperate, last-minute forward pass. The term gained wider use in 1975, to describe a 50-yard pass made by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach. The pass was successful, and when asked about it later, Staubach said, “I just closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.” Commentators referred to this play as a Hail Mary pass, and an idiom moved into the mainstream. Interestingly, the term is increasingly used to define many types of desperate situations as a Hail Mary. Note that Hail and Mary are capitalized, as they refer to a prayer.


The Hail Mary play came after the Chippewas were given an untimed down after the game clock had expired on the previous play, one in which the Cowboys had thrown an incomplete pass on fourth down. (The Washington Post)

Aaron Rodgers, master of the Hail Mary pass, struck again in another big moment. (The Colorado Springs Gazette)

Anti-Trump lawyers have one more Hail Mary to stop a President Donald J. Trump. (The New York Times)