You could walk down a crowded street in broad daylight anywhere in Massachusetts, say two words, and someone, somewhere will know exactly what you're talking about.
It was a 48 yard prayer of a pass, a type of play that isn't supposed to work. 55 Flood Tip. All the receivers ran straight to the end zone. The quarterback, from under center, would try to just chuck it. It's a play attempted so many times with failed results. For Doug Flutie, when he threw the ball from his own 37 yard line, more than a few yards behind the line of scrimmage, it meant the ball had to travel 60 yards in the air against a 30 mph wind.
And just like that, the legend was born.
Doug Flutie is the one Boston College athlete who is virtually untouchable in the annals of Massachusetts local sports. He's a local kid, the only Heisman Trophy winner from Boston College, one of only two finalists to ever come out of the Eagles program. But he's more than that--he's our guy. He's a guy who grew up here, who still lives here, whose family still comes out of the same high school and hometown he came out of. He's a guy BC fans identify with, and he's the subject of Friday night's premiere episode of Doug Flutie: A Football Life on NFL Network at 9 PM.
Without that pass, Flutie still would've won the Heisman Trophy, and BC still would've gone to the Cotton Bowl Classic against Houston. But that pass, in his own words, made him a guy who would compete to the final whistle, created a legend. And now NFL Network tells the story of the man who went from Natick High School to Boston College to the NFL, CFL, and back again.
Flutie's career is one of the most interesting and compelling tales and debates in NFL history. Viewed by many as "too short" at 5'9" tall, he persevered to a career in professional football spanning over 20 seasons. He became the highest paid athlete in pro football when Donald Trump signed him to the USFL as part of the bidding war between the two leagues. After the league folded two years later, Flutie went to the Chicago Bears, where he competed with Jim McMahon for the starting quarterback's job.
In 1987, he came home, traded to the New England Patriots. He crossed the picket line during the players' strike to play for the Pats, played through 1989 on a rudderless team in tumult, then departed for Canada. He became a legend north of the border, the first non-Canadian honored in the Canada Sports Hall of Fame, honored as the greatest football player in CFL history.
He returned to the NFL, won the starting job, lost it in one of the most pivotal moments in sports history (The Music City Miracle game), then was traded to San Diego. He ended his career back with the Patriots, where he retired after completing the first drop kick extra point since 1941 in 2005.
As a starter, he went 37-28 in his career, including a 22-9 record in home games. He threw for nearly 20 more touchdowns than interceptions, amassed over 58,000 passing yards playing for the NFL and CFL. He did it at a time when quarterbacks weren't supposed to be short, weren't supposed to be mobile, weren't supposed to be the type that is prevalent in the game today.
At the same time, he remains a controversial figure. Could Doug Flutie have won if he'd remained a full time starter in the NFL? Would he have achieved the same heights if he played his whole career in the United States? What would his story be like if he stayed with one team, was entrusted and built around?
And it all started here.