Hut! Hut! Hike!: Hail Mary Pass
— The Hut! Hut! Hike! series examines the origins of football terminology and how the game's evolution drove changes in its vocabulary. The full article (#7 in the series) is available to paid subscribers only. —
Among the more colorful terms for a pass play is the Hail Mary, which now describes a long, last-minute pass thrown by teams trailing on the scoreboard. But it was not always so, and if you believe the story, the original Hail Mary was not a pass play.
The legend of the Hail Mary play began in 1932 when one of Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen, Jim Crowley, spoke at the American Football Coaches Association banquet. Crowley told the crowd of Notre Dame’s come-from-behind victory over Georgia Tech in 1922. Georgia Tech twice fumbled deep, and when Notre Dame failed to move the ball, a lineman, who happened to be Presbyterian, suggested the team say a Hail Mary in the huddle before the fourth-down play. Notre Dame scored on a running play, and a legend was born. Of course, the legend may be only a legend since there was no public mention of the Hail Mary incident until Crowley's speech almost ten years later.
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