Steve Bartkowski Hail Mary
Steve Bartkowski Hail Mary
November 20, 1983

Steve Bartkowski Hail Mary

"It's not how the game starts, it's how it ends." - Evander Holyfield
Evander Holyfield
by Evander Holyfield

One of the more dramatic and entertaining Hail Mary plays ever took place on November 20, 1983 and decided a game between the 49ers and the Falcons. On a mild and windy evening at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, with two seconds left and the Joe Montana-led 49ers winning 24-21, the Falcons had the ball near midfield and were in need of a prayer. QB Steve Bartkowski took the snap and launched a throw that sailed toward a group of 49ers and Falcons a few yards shy of the goal line. Among those players was the Falcons’ Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound receiver from Division III Widener College. As the ball fell earthbound, Johnson accidentally slipped and slid feet-first on the grass; meanwhile, the ball had been tipped up in the air. Johnson, a blazing fast runner, sprang to his feet, caught the ball at the 6, and – now with two 49ers blocking his path to the end zone – zoomed around them to the right. He was tripped up by another defender, then hit at the 2 by yet another, but still contorted his body upside down and stretched the ball across goal line. It was a 47-yard TD catch, and the Falcons had won 28-24. Johnson, who was famous for his silly end zone dances, had no chance to immediately celebrate as his teammates simply piled on top of him.

Evander Holyfield
Evander Holyfield, a retired professional boxer known as “The Real Deal,” is a former heavyweight champion. As a child in Atlanta, he became a Falcons fan and a popcorn vendor at their home games. Many years later, as a celebrity, he was invited to Falcons training camp, where he delivered an inspirational talk.
Place of Birth:
Atmore, AL
Preferred Team:
Atlanta Falcons