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  The Hail Mary

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In their own words

For 25 years, the Hail Mary pass has been the source of many conversations, interviews and heated discussions. Here are a variety of quotes, taken from numerous books and other resources, in which the main participants of the Hail Mary game talk about the fateful day.

• • •

THE EXPECTATIONS

The Cowboys entered the playoff game as a wild-card team and 7-8 point underdogs to a Vikings team that had been to the previous two Super Bowls and were playing in the cold conditions on its own turf.

Hail Mary
From 1975:
Can you believe those Cowboys?
Blair: Ironically, it happened to the Vikings
'Super' says Landry
Tarkenton lauds Cowboy defense
Official hurt, but recovers
More:
A pass' presence
Luksa: 25 years later, answered prayer hails memories
From Roger to Drew
Pearson's TV special
Notebook
In their own words
Media Memories
Other Hail Marys
Trivia
1975 season scores

"I mean, nobody was expecting us to win. We went up there, of course confident we could win, but we also knew that this obstacle in front of us was pretty stout."
— Drew Pearson, Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes


THE SET-UP

Down 14-10 and with less than two minutes left, the Cowboys had to drive the length of the field to score.

"It was amazing to look at that sideline. There were a lot of faces that showed they had about given up, but there were a lot of us who had been in games when we had come back before, and that was something about our team as a defense: we always felt we could get the ball back and we knew if we got it back, Roger, given a chance, could do it. He had done it before."
— Lee Roy Jordan, Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes

"During that last series I was sitting on the bench. We were so far away I was packing. I was packing out of my apartment. I was going to go back to Oklahoma City. I was sitting on the bench thinkin, 'Give up. It's over' ... And so I stood up and walked over to the sideline."
— Thomas Henderson, Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes

"I was mad all game. I had only one pass thrown to me before that series. I was mad at Staubach and mad at Landry and mad at everybody, man. But like Landry said later, when the Cowboys needed something to happen, he wanted to have Roger and me, his two big-play guys."
— Drew Pearson, Tom and The 'Boys


THE CALL

Two plays earlier, the Cowboys had converted a fourth-and-17 to midfield. On the ensuing first down, Roger Staubach threw an incompletion to Preston Pearson. Now it was second down with 32 seconds left.

"People forget that the play before that pass Roger was trying to go deep on third down, and Drew was covered, so he dumped the ball off to Preson Pearson, and Pearson dropped it. That saved the day, because we were out of timeouts and couldn't have stopped the clock."
— Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys: Our Story

"Drew came back to the huddle, and I said, 'Remember against the Redskins how you made that in-route? Why don't you try that move on Nate Wright and go deep?' And that's what he kinda did. We were trying to get him isolated on one guy (Wright" and let him jump for the ball. I wanted him to make that little in-route and hold that one safety (Krause) there and break back out, and then release and go long. I'd try to keep Paul Krause away from running over there. I told everyone to block, to give me some time."
— Roger Staubach, Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes

"It had to be a touchdown, and I frankly didn't think we could pull it off. I mean, how can you go deep on a team that knows you have to go deep? That's about as tough an assignment as there is in offensive football."
— Roger Staubach, Tom And The 'Boys


THE THROW

Roger Staubach pumped to his left before reloading and setting his sights on Drew Pearson down the right sideline.

"I pumped so hard I almost lost the ball, and as it turned out — see what happens when you have everything working on your side? — that was the best thing of all, because it forced me to underthrow the ball a little. I just couldn't get all the steam I wanted behind the throw, and it's a lucky thing I didn't because I would have overthrown Drew."
— Roger Staubach, Tom And The 'Boys

"Roger doesn't like to hear me say this, but the only reason I was able to catch that one is because he underthrew it."
— Drew Pearson, Tom And The 'Boys


THE CATCH

Drew Pearson came back for the underthrown pass while defender Nate Wright slipped to the turf.

"As we ran down the field we were about even, and I thought I could beat him with what I thought of as my going-to-the-football gear. I wasn't real fast, but I could kick it in a little to get to the ball. I hoped Roger would throw the ball quicker, but he was putting a fake on Paul Krause. When he finally put the ball up I could see that it was underthrown. I was able to plant my outside foot and lean back to it. I used a 'swim move,' bringing one arm over."
— Drew Pearson, Dallas Cowboys: Our Story

"As I was dropping back, I saw Staubach look over to Golden Richards' side and make a pump. I thought he was throwing that way, but then I saw his eyes come back to Drew. I said, 'It's coming this way. I better get on my horse!' I turned and faced up to Drew, and I thought we were running shoulder to shoulder. I saw the ball in the air, and I really thought I could intercept it because I was in good position. Suddenly, my mind became confused. Next thing I knew I was on the ground, and I saw Drew catch the ball on his hip and run into the end zone. I was in shock."
— Nate Wright, The Dallas Morning News, Dec. 24, 1995

"The ball arrived as we both went up, and I knew I'd dropped the pass. But I came down bent over and somehow the ball stuck between my elbow and my hip. They say the fans were surprised, but I was surprised, too. I backed into the end zone untouched. I remember that the stadium got so quiet. When you're a player in any opposing stadium that's what you hope for, no noise from the home team's fans."
— Drew Pearson, Dallas Cowboys: Our Story

"Looking back, I think the pump-fake helped a lot. Not only did it keep Krause from being involved in breaking up the pass, but it delayed him just long enough so he couldn't tackle Drew and stop the touchdown. The Vikings claimed that Drew pushed off Wright, but I couldn't tell what happened. All I saw was a flash of orange flying through the air, and for an instant I thought a penalty flag had dropped. It turned out to be an orange somebody threw out of the stands."
— Roger Staubach, Time Enough To Win

"It was amazing, unbelievable. I can't believe the ball stuck on Drew's hip like that. It was a thousand-to-one shot, but I tell you, I'll take it. The game was out of my hands. Roger called the play, and he and Drew executed it."
— Tom Landry, Landry: The Legend And The Legacy


THE CONTROVERSY

The Vikings claimed Drew Pearson pushed off on Wright, and that a flag for offensive pass interference should have been thrown.

"Pearson pushed off Nate Wright on the play, but it was either their last chance or very close to it ... What did they have to lose? The push was apparent, and there were two officials on the catch so, in that sense, we were victims. ... On the other hand, it was a great play. Pearson must have been a basketball player at some point, because that was a basketball play. He didn't push too soon ... he waited until the ball was almost there, until he and Nate were both in the air. Then he pushed off, and Nate went on the ground. It he had pushed while they were still running, he wouldn't have knocked Nate off stride. But it was a remarkable play by Pearson ... jump, push a man away and catch the football, all in the same motion. It couldn't have been easy."
— Bud Grant, Bud: The Other Side of the Glacier

"Nate Wright fell on the play, and they said I pushed him. You know, there was contact. When I brought my arm around, there was contact. And that might have been what knocked him off balance. But there was never, ever any deliberate push or anything of that nature. How can you push somebody and make the catch at the same time? I'm not that good."
— Drew Pearson, Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes

"It WAS a push-off."
— Jim Marshall, Star-Tribune, Jan 8, 2000


THE REACTION

As Drew Pearson jogged into the end zone, the Met stadium crowd went silent. Pearson then reached the back of the end zone and launched the ball into the stands before celebrating with his teammates.

"It was dead quiet. It's still the one memory that will stay in my mind forever, about my career. It shouldn't have happened. We were more than just lucky."
— Roger Staubach, Tom And The 'Boys

"Do you know, that was the only time in all my years with the Cowboys that Coach Landry ever hugged me. Yes, sir. He did. I was coming off the field ... hell, we all were, just to get away from those Viking fans ... and he walked up and hugged me. Now it wasn't one of those wild, emotional hugs, you know, it was kind of (he turns his head, circles his arms around an imaginary body) like this. He told me he didn't think I pushed off, either."
— Drew Pearson, Tom And The 'Boys


THE AFTERMATH

The Cowboys went on to upset the Los Angeles Rams the next week to reach Super Bowl X in Miami, where they lost to Pittsburgh, 21-17. The Vikings reached the Super Bowl again the next season, losing for the fourth time.

"Psychologically, our victory over Minnesota worked against the Rams. They had expected to have to go north to Minnesota for the championship game. They were more concerned over playing Minnesota than they were over having to play us. The Ram players had written off our regular-season victory over them as a fluke. I'm sure Chuck Knox tried to tell them we had a pretty good football team, but the Rams already were talking about playing in the Super Bowl."
— Tom Landry, Landry: The Legend And The Legacy

"It's ironic, the way things turn out. The best football in that game was when we drove the ball to score and take the lead in the fourth quarter. It may have been the finest drive a Viking team has ever made, because it was a critical situation, we couldn't afford a mistake, and we had to score. We made all the plays against an excellent defense ... had we won the game, that drive would have been the thing people remembered."
— Bud Grant, Bud: The Other Side of the Glacier


THE LEGACY

Twenty-five years later, the Hail Mary pass remains arguably the most celebrated play in Cowboys' history.

"I never really did say the Hail Mary. I was joking in the locker room afterward about closing my eyes and saying the Hail Mary. I would have joked I'd said a prayer, but, being Catholic, I reflexively used the term, 'Hail Mary'."
— Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys: Our Story

"I think the controversy surrounding the play, whether I pushed Nate Wright or not, because of that controversy, it keeps it alive. There never was a final chapter, because they don't think they should close the book on it because there is still discussion about it, so it's kept alive, and it's been exciting for me to be part of that now. It was exciting then, but even twenty years later, it's still exciting, and even though I made a lot of other significant catches throughout my career, that's the one people remember most, the one they want to talk about the most."
— Drew Pearson, Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes

"That 'Hail Mary' game was amazing. Of all our games, I think it might be the one I remember most."
— Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys: Our Story


BOOK SOURCES

Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes by Peter Golenbock
Landry: The Legend and the Legacy by Bob. St. John
Tom and the 'Boys by Dave Klein
Time Enough To Win by Roger Staubach with Frank Luksa
Dallas Cowboys: Our Story by Jeff Guinn
Bud: The Other Side of the Glacier by Bill McGrane

Today in History
2000: The Cowboys sign unrestricted free agent linebacker Joe Bowden. Bowden spent one year in Dallas after eight years with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Tennessee Titans.
Picture of the Day

AP

Green Bay Packer Jim Taylor runs with a Bart Starr pass as Mel Renfro (20) leaps high in air too late to break up the pass during the NFL Championship game, Jan. 1, 1967, in Dallas. At left is Cowboys Chuck Howley (54).


Michael Irvin



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