American football player
By all accounts Doug Flutie was a great college quarterback, putting his Boston College Eagles back on the map in the 1980s. His 63-yard pass, thrown with no time remaining on the clock, sealed a win over the defending
national champions, the University of Miami, in the 1984 Orange Bowl, and made him a media darling. A scrambling, think-on-your-feet, pass-on-the-run quarterback, Flutie's play was exciting to watch, but at just under five-feet-ten-inches, much too small by most National Football League (NFL) standards, he wouldn't get a real shot at proving himself in the NFL until his fourteenth season as a professional quarterback.
Small Stature, Big Heart
Doug Flutie was born on October 23, 1962, in Baltimore, Maryland and lived for a time as a young child with his grandparents in Manchester, Maryland. When he was six years old, Flutie moved with his parents, Richard and Joan Flutie, and his three siblings to Melbourne, Florida, where he became involved in youth football and baseball. He began playing tackle football at the age of nine, and when he turned twelve years old, he joined the Pop Warner football league. When he was thirteen the family moved to Natick, Massachusetts, where Flutie attended Natick High School.
During his years in high school Flutie, an excellent student, participated in numerous sports. Basketball was his favorite, but by the time he was a senior, it was clear that football was his best. Although his high school football stats garnered the attention of numerous smaller colleges, Flutie wanted to compete at the Division 1-A level, but major universities were hesitant to take him because of his size. At just under five-feet-ten-inches and 175 pounds, Flutie was considered too small to play Division 1-A football. At the last minute, Boston College (BC) offered Flutie its last available scholarship. Even then, the offer was made only after two other prospects chose other schools, and BC found that a slot still needed filling.
As a freshman at Boston in 1981, Flutie, listed as the team's fourth-string quarterback, sat on the sidelines of his first three games. However, in the fourth game of the season, down 38-0 against Penn State and the first string quarterback hurt, the coach called Flutie's number. It was the only opportunity Flutie needed. By the middle of the season, he was team's starting quarterback. During the 1982 season Flutie led the Eagles to their first post-season bowl game in forty years. Although BC lost the Tangerine Bowl to the Auburn Tigers, Flutie was selected as the game's Most Valuable Player. On the season he completed 184 of 386 passing attempts, with fifteen touchdowns. By 1983, Flutie's junior year, BC was gaining national attention, and two BC games were nationally televised.
|1962||Born October 23 in Baltimore, Maryland|
|1977-81||Plays basketball, baseball, and football for Natick High School in Natick, Massachusetts|
|1982-84||Starting quarterback for Boston University Eagles|
|1984||Launches "Hail Mary" pass to win Orange Bowl against University of Miami|
|1984-85||Plays for United States Football League's (USFL) New Jersey Generals, owned by Donald Trump|
|1986||Drafted by Los Angles Rams, then traded to the Chicago Bears|
|1987||Traded to the New England Patriots|
|1989||Released by the Patriots, joins Canadian Football League's British Columbia Lions|
|1992||Signs contract with Calgary Stampede|
|1996||Signs with the Toronto Argonauts|
|1997||Publishes autobiography, Flutie.|
|1998||Signs with National Football League's Buffalo Bills; establishes the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism|
|Traded to the San Diego Chargers|
Flutie played in the biggest college game of his career in the 1984 Orange Bowl against the defending national champions University of Miami Hurricanes and their star sophomore quarterback Bernie Kosar. Despite wet and rainy conditions, Flutie threw for 472 yards and three touchdowns and ran nine yards for another touchdown, making him the first quarterback in major college history to eclipse the mark of 10,000 passing yards. But the most spectacular play of the day occurred with just seconds left in the game. Down 45-41 with six seconds on the clock and the Eagles on their own 37 yard line, Flutie had one play left. In one of the most exciting moments in college football, Flutie flung the ball sixty-three yards into the wind, where it was miraculously pulled down by Flutie's roommate, wide receiver Gerard Phelan, who was waiting in the end zone. With no time left on the clock, BC won the game, 47-45. It would forever be known as simply "the Pass."
The Good, the Bad, and the Outstanding
Despite winning the 1984 Heisman Trophy, the NFL had doubts about Flutie's chances of making it at the professional level, pointing again to his small stature. The Buffalo Bills had first shot at drafting Flutie but had made no commitment to do so. Disappointed in the NFL's response, Flutie opted for the United States Football League (USFL) and a five-year, $7 million contract with the New Jersey Generals, owned by Donald Trump. He suspended his studies and played in his first game as a New Jersey General just a month after hanging up his college uniform. Despite posting a winning record, Flutie's experience in New Jersey was frustrating, and he was booed by the crowds more than once. Returning home after the season's end, 22-year-old Flutie married his high school sweetheart and finished his degree in speech communication at BC.
When the USFL folded before the opening of the 1986 season, Flutie ended up with the Chicago Bears in October 1986. He appeared in just four games, and during one of those, television cameras caught him getting verbally berated by coach Mike Ditka . Flutie also had trouble with the team's starting quarterback, Jim McMahon, who publicly referred to him as "America's midget." In October 1987 the Bears traded Flutie to the New England Patriots, but on the year he played in just two games. During the 1988 season Flutie started nine games, passing for 1,150 yards, but he still did not gain the confidence of his coaches. After starting three games early in the 1989 season, he was benched, making only two more appearances the remainder of the year. When Rod Rust became the Patriots' new coach in February 1990, he cut Flutie from the team before spring training camp.
With no immediate takers in the NFL, Flutie turned to the Canadian Football League (CFL), where he found a welcoming home with the British Columbia Lions. Flutie quickly discovered the CFL much to his liking. The league tends toward quicker players, and its rules cater to the passing game. For the first time since he'd left BC, Flutie was again enjoying the game of football. Playing eight seasons in British Columbia, Calgary, and Toronto, Flutie won the league's most outstanding player honors six times, led the league in passing five times, and took his teams to four Grey Cups, winning three. By 1998 he was really to give the NFL another shot.
Gives the NFL another Shot
In 1998 35-year-old Flutie signed with the Buffalo Bills, who promised him a $50,000 signing bonus and the NFL minimum pay of $275,000 (compared to his $1 million annual paycheck in the CFL), but did not promise a starting spot as quarterback. Nonetheless, Flutie wanted to give the NFL one more try. When the starting quarterback, Rob Johnson, got hurt early in the season, Flutie took over the team and quickly became a fan favorite. During the 1998 season the Sporting News noted his resurrection in popularity: "What a story. Left for football dead by NFL geniuses in 1989, Flutie is now America's sweetheart. Still not Robo-QB, still a little guy in a Tall & Big Man's game, he plays with an intuition in motion that can't be taught, can't be measured and will thrill you bone-deep." After the 1999 season Flutie was awarded a four-year, $22 million extension, including a $6 million signing bonus and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
Despite Flutie's popularity and success in Buffalo, he became locked in a battle for the starting position with Johnson, now healthy and who the Bills were paying $5 million a year. By the end of the 1999 season, during which Flutie shared playing time with Johnson, it was clear that there was one quarterback too many on the team, and Flutie was traded to the San Diego Chargers. As the starting quarterback on a struggling team that ended the 2000 season with nine straight losses, Flutie found himself again in competition for the starting spot, this time with the Chargers' talented rookie quarterback Drew Brees. However, unlike his acrid relationship with Johnson, Flutie and Brees became friends, making it easier for Flutie to accept the team's decision to name Brees as the starting quarterback for the 2002 season. Flutie saw action in just one game.
The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism
Flutie made an indelible mark on NFL fans in 1998 when he signed with the Buffalo Bills. He announced that he was donating half of his$50,000 signing bonus to Hunter's Hope, the charity for former Bills quar-terback Jim Kelly, whose son was born with a rare, degenerative genetic en-zyme disorder. The other half would be used to establish the Douglas Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism for his then six-year-old son Dougie, who isautistic. Buffalo fans bought 125,000 boxes of Flutie Flakes, a cereal Flutiecreated to raise money for his new charity. Flutie and his wife remain activein the treatment and cure of autism through the foundation.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1984||Awarded Heisman Trophy; named First Team All American|
|1991||Completes 466 passes for 6,619 yards, a Canadian Football League (CFL) single-season record|
|Named Most Outstanding Player CFL|
|1992,||Awarded CFL Grey Cup as most valuable player|
|1999||Invited to play in NFL Pro Bowl|
During his time as a professional football player, Flutie has proved a number of adages attached to his career, including "it's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of fight in the dog." Flutie, who remains close to his family and is a drummer in a band with his brother, is content that he no longer has to wonder if he could have made it in the NFL. He has.
|BC: British Columbia Lions; Buf: Buffalo Bills; C: Canadian Football League; Cal: Calgary Stampeders; Chi: Chicago Bears; NE: New England Patriots; NJ: New Jersey Generals; SD: San Diego Chargers; Tor: Toronto Argonauts; US: United States Football League.|
SELECTED WRITINGS BY FLUTIE:
(With Perry Lefko) Flutie, Warwick Publishing, 1998.
Newsmakers 1999, Issue 2. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999.
Ballard, Sarah. "Portrait of a Hero in Limbo." Sports Illustrated (December 2, 1985): 52.
Deacon, James. "The Flutie Phenomenon." Maclean's (November 16, 1998): 81.
Hutchings, David. "Flutie's Patootie, Laurie Fortier, Thinks He Made His Best Pass Six Years Ago: At Her." People (May 6, 1985): 69-70.
Kindred, Dave. "Flutie Finally Fits into the NFL." Sporting News (November 16, 1998): 71.
King, Peter. "Inside the NFL." Sports Illustrated (December 27, 1999): 138.
Lambert, Pam, Cynthia Wang, and Michelle York. "Football's Doug Flutie Proves He's Got What It Takes." People (December 7, 1998): 181.
Layden, Tim. "Fight to the Finnish." Sports Illustrated (August 12, 2002): 40.
Looney, Douglas S. "A Little Man on Campus." Sports Illustrated (September 26, 1983): 38+.
Looney, Douglas S. "Flutie's B.C. Connection." Sports Illustrated (August 20, 1990): 52.
Maloney, Rick. "Marketers Choc Full of Flutie Ideas." Business First of Buffalo (December 21, 1998): 1-2.
Montville, Leigh. "Passing Time." Sports Illustrated (June 22, 1998): 58.
Pompei, Dan. "Bills Gamble Little by Taking a Flier on Flutie." Sporting News (February 2, 1998): 25.
Pompei, Dan. "Flutie Fits the Bills Better, but Johnson is Coach's Pick." Sporting News (November 20, 2000): 14.
Silver, Michael. "Re-Charged." Sports Illustrated (October 8, 2001): 50.
Underwood, John. "It Wasn't a Fluke. It was a Flutie." Sports Illustrated (December 3, 1984): 22.
Wiley, Ralph. "A Pocketful of Dreams." Sports Illustrated (February 25, 1985): 24.
Wulf, Steve. "Mr. Touchdown Scores Again." Sports Illustrated (February 4, 1985): 20.
Zimmerman, Paul. "Magic Flutie." Sports Illustrated, (December 7, 1992): 44-45.
"Doug Flutie." National Football League. http://www.nfl.com/(December 28, 2002)
Sketch by Kari Bethel