While he was a hero on the football field, Doug Flutie became a superhero away from it

A hero on the football field despite concerns over his size, Doug Flutie has become something of a superhero off the field.

In many respects, quarterback Doug Flutie was a generation before his time. If Flutie had played in the modern era, he’d likely have become a superstar. Yet, even at a time when he was discriminated against for his diminutive frame, Flutie was a hero on the football field. Upon his retirement from the game, he became a superhero away from it. He remarks that one play made his name. But Flutie is more than just a late November “Hail Mary.”

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From Maryland to Massachusetts, Doug Flutie’s rise to football fame

Although Flutie would become an adopted son of Boston, his performances for the Boston College Eagles earned him a place not only in the hearts of fans but in the history books of the program.

Flutie’s journey to football fame began in Maryland. The Flutie family traveled across the country, following Dick Flutie in his work endeavors, landing in Florida for a time. It was there where a young Doug discovered his love for sports and a talent for football. As a star junior high quarterback, Doug Flutie led the team to two county championships.

Family is important to understanding Flutie’s journey, not just on the football field but away from it. If you follow the former quarterback on social media, you’ll find an array of posts referencing the loving environment that helped nurture his development. Dick would coach and mom Joan would run the concession stand. They were the very epitome of “football is family.” When both parents passed away within an hour of each other in 2015, Doug remarked “They say you can die of a broken heart and I believe it.”

Almost 40 years prior to that sad event in the Flutie family, they’d uprooted from Florida to Natick, Massachusetts. It was at Natick High School where Doug’s legend began to take shape. An all-league performer across multiple sports, Flutie was as bright in the classroom as he was a star in the sporting arena. In 2007, Flutie’s contributions led to him earning a place on the Natick High School Wall of Achievement.

Even at this time, however, his diminutive stature was being held against him.

“I remember a scout from Ohio State coming in and looking at my film,” Flutie recalls. “He was all excited to meet me. Then he met me, and I was 5’10”, and he said that I was not a Division I quarterback.”

Flutie held just one Division I offer. Boston College.

Flutie creates history at Boston College

“Three wide receivers out to the right,” Dan Davis set the scene for the millions watching on CBS. “Flutie flushed…Throws it down…Caught by Boston College. I don’t believe it!!!”

He was already a hero for Boston College fans. However, Flutie’s Miracle in Miami sealed his place in folklore, a legend never seen before or since on Chestnut Hill. The “Hail Mary” pass was the finishing move of a slugfest between the Eagles and the Miami Hurricanes with Boston College emerging as an unlikely 47-45 victor.

It’s come to mark Flutie’s collegiate legacy. However, that one play was part of an incredible 1984 campaign, the final one of his Boston College career. The star QB conjured up a win over highly ranked Alabama early in the season. He’d gone to battle, albeit in a losing effort, in one of the harshest environments in college football — Penn State. Following the Miami victory, Flutie helped guide Boston College to a Cotton Bowl win.

He’d gone from a fourth-string QB early in his freshman season, to a Boston College hero in the space of four years. National attention followed him everywhere during that 1984 season. While Flutie maintains that he would have been forgotten without the “Miami Miracle,” he became Boston College’s only Heisman Trophy winner — with voting having been completed prior to the events of Nov. 23.

With 10,579 passing yards, Flutie still sits atop the Boston College records book for career passing yards. His 520 passing yards against Penn State in 1982 are still the most in a single game for the program. And no Boston College quarterback has ever thrown more touchdowns in a single game than Flutie’s six strikes against North Carolina in 1984.

A statue of the “Miami Miracle” awaits visitors to Alumni Stadium. His “22” jersey rests forever in Boston College history, retired by the program, immortalized.

Doug Flutie with the Calgary Stampeders in 1995.
Doug Flutie with the Calgary Stampeders in 1995. Photo F. Scott Grant

One size doesn’t fit all at the NFL level

“If the pros don’t take him, they’re crazy. You don’t have to be 6’3″ to be a pro quarterback. Flutie doesn’t throw over people. He finds a crack and throws between them.” – Joe Paterno

Not everyone in the NFL agreed with Paterno, the former Penn State head coach. Coming out of Boston College as a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who’d just conjured up one of the greatest seasons in program history, interest should have been high on Flutie.

Yet, not for the first time in his career, his diminutive stature held back his opportunity. As the Buffalo Bills — who held the first overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft — dithered about their QB situation, Flutie took destiny into his own hands.

Having been selected by the New Jersey Generals in the 1985 USFL Territorial Draft, Flutie engineered a lucrative contract. While it may seem meager now, the five-year, $7 million deal made the former BC quarterback the highest-paid rookie in all sports. Furthermore, he became the highest-paid professional football player. Despite being selected in Round 11 of the 1985 NFL Draft, Flutie turned his back on the NFL for the USFL.

The experience was short-lived. Flutie’s first two pass attempts in the USFL were interceptions. Despite recovering to throw for 2,109 yards and 13 touchdowns, injury curtailed his season, and the USFL folded in 1986.

Flutie returned to the NFL that year with the Chicago Bears, before being traded to the New England Patriots. Although he helped the Patriots to within a sniff of the playoffs in 1988, he was benched and ultimately cut following the 1989 season. His NFL dreams, for now, were in tatters.

Flutie cements his legacy in the Canadian Football League

“My first two years in the CFL, all I thought of was getting back to the NFL. It was like ‘I’ll put my time in up here and go back.’ Then I went and signed a nice contract in Calgary and was like, ‘Hey, I can make a living up here, this is great football, and I’m having a blast,'” said Flutie.

The “nice contract” with the Calgary Stampeders came on the back of a season where Flutie threw for 6,619 yards for the BC Lions. The move set in motion an unprecedented level of success. He helped guide Calgary to a Grey Cup win, earning MVP honors in the process. Following a move to the Toronto Argonauts, he added another two Grey Cups to his résumé, once again being named the MVP in each of those successes.

Flutie’s career north of the border lasted eight seasons but made a lasting impression on his legacy. In those eight seasons, he was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player on six occasions. His name is etched all over the CFL records books, including for most single-season passing yards, most career passing yards per game, and most passing yards per game in one season.

Ask anyone who the greatest quarterback in CFL history is, and they’ll tell you Doug Flutie. In a poll conducted in 2006, he was named the greatest player in CFL history. Soon after, Flutie became the first non-Canadian to be inducted into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame. Not bad for a player who was considered too small to play the game at a professional level.

Flutie’s triumphant return to the NFL

Although thoughts of returning to the NFL had evaporated after signing with the Stampeders, the NFL still had Flutie thoughts. The Bills, the team that had spurned the opportunity to select him in the 1985 NFL Draft, were in dire need of a quarterback ahead of the 1998 season and signed Flutie that January. On Oct. 11, 1998, the diminutive QB rose from the pine to throw two touchdowns and lead the Bills in a comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Less than one week later — and nine years after making his last NFL start — Flutie conjured up some last minute magic to find the end zone on a fourth-down play, leading Buffalo to a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. His combative, athletic, playstyle earned him adoration from fans. In all, the diminutive QB helped Buffalo to eight wins and the 1998 playoffs, earning himself the 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.

In an ideal storytelling world, Flutie would have ridden off into the sunset on his wave of success. But, his love for the game wouldn’t be denied, and he led the Bills to a 10-5 record in 1999. Having been benched for the playoffs, Flutie returned as the backup in 2000, seeing significant playing time that included a perfect passer rating game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Following his release from Buffalo, Flutie earned starter reps for the San Diego Chargers. He acted as a mentor for Drew Brees, another QB whose height raised questions about his professional projection.

Flutie finished his football career as the backup to Tom Brady in New England. In his final NFL action, Flutie drop-kicked an extra point, something that hadn’t been done since 1941. It brought to an end a remarkable and unlikely career, perhaps best summarized by the late, great John Madden.

“Inch for inch, Flutie in his prime was the best QB of his generation.”

The Backyard Games & Eatery on 5270 N. U.S. Highway 1 in Palm Shores, just north of the Pineda Causeway, hosted a fundraiser called Backyard Axes and Hoops for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. On Sunday, April 3, former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie, Jr. was there with his Batmobile. For the last few weeks, the public could enjoy various games, a BBQ meal, and a chance to win up to $5,000 for a $25.00 donation that went to this charity.
Doug Flutie Jr Batmobile

Flutie becomes a superhero away from the field

Sunday, April 3, 2022. Palm Shores. A rumbling, guttural sound broke through the spring air on N. US Highway 1, just north of the Pineda Causeway. A sleek black vehicle, its piercing yellow headlights and rear spoiler shaped like bat wings, appeared into view and pulled up outside The Backyard Games and Eatery. With its sweeping wheel arches flanking an almost jet-like engine, it was unmistakably, “The Batmobile.”

But it wasn’t the caped crusader emerging from the mysterious interior. Sporting a backward-facing baseball cap and a Boston Red Sox t-shirt, Flutie exited the vehicle to a warm applause from the amassed crowd. A self-confessed Batman fanatic, the car is from the former QB’s private collection. However, Flutie isn’t there to show off what would be the envy of many. Like Batman himself, he arrives with a purpose.

Since the end of his football career — announced in May 2006 — Flutie has kept himself busy with many endeavors. He’s been the college football commentator for ABC and ESPN, and covered Notre Dame games for NBC. He had a New York restaurant, imaginatively named “Flutie’s.” His image adorned the football game “Doug Flutie’s Maximum Football.” On “Dancing with the Stars,” Flutie showcased he still has fancy footwork. He was even, for a short time, the WWE 24/7 Champion after winning the belt at a flag football tournament.

Flutie’s interest in football has never wavered, and he regularly entertains some of the biggest names in the sport on his podcast “Flutie Flakescast.” The podcast is almost the perfect bridge between his football and post-football life. The name is taken from “Flutie Flakes,” a cereal brand that he created while starting for the Bills in 1998. It may seem self-centered, almost egotistical, but there’s a philanthropic and family-oriented cause behind this and the emergence of Flutie from a Batmobile one sunny April in 2022.

Family has been key to the Flutie story. From his upbringing in Maryland, Florida, and Natick to where he is now — a father of two and a grandfather — family has been the driver behind everything that he does. His son — Doug Jr. — is autistic, and the family set up the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism to help improve the quality of everyday life for people and families affected by autism.

Since its inception in 1998, the foundation has helped 10,000+ individuals and families affected by autism. They’ve raised $14 million which has been distributed to families, schools, and other community partners. Flutie’s emergence from a Batmobile at The Backyard Games and Eatery is just the latest fundraiser to help continue the work of the foundation. From a hero on the field, Flutie has morphed into something of a superhero away from it.

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter: @ojhodgkinson.

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