The stereotype of the “ideal” NFL quarterback being a specific size and weight can be a bit shortsighted (pun intended).
Players who don’t meet the specific requirements can be overlooked or discarded too early.
Even if a player has the tools necessary to play in the NFL, his short stature will be a negative in the eyes of pro personnel evaluators.
This is what happened to Doug Flutie.
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) March 9, 2021
After a storied college career, Flutie played in the USFL and the NFL.
Although he captivated crowds and won games as a starter, Flutie was constantly overlooked and found himself out of a job in 1989.
He then found work in the Canadian Football League where he thrilled fans and won multiple championships.
When the NFL gave him a second chance in 1998, Flutie consistently proved that he should have never left.
This is the story of Doug Flutie.
Douglas Richard Flutie was born on October 23, 1962, in Manchester, Maryland.
It was obvious to Flutie’s family that he was destined to play the game of football when his parents found him sleeping with a football by the time he was four.
When Flutie was six, the family moved to Melbourne Beach, Florida due to his father’s work in the aerospace industry.
The change of scenery didn’t change Flutie’s love of football and most days he could be found playing in neighborhood flag football games.
When he was nine, Flutie joined his first tackle league, but at just 63 pounds, he was five short of the minimum weight requirement.
As a consequence, Flutie sat on the bench while his older brother, Billy, played quarterback.
Doug finally found his way to the field halfway through the season where he played free safety.
A couple of years later, Flutie was put behind center but mainly handed the ball off in his team’s ground-based offense.
Bored with hand-off duties, Flutie asked his coach to put him at running back instead and enjoyed the position.
As a member of Hoover Junior High School, Flutie would help lead the team to two county championships.
By the mid-1970s, the space program slowed and Flutie’s father relocated the family again, this time to Natick, Massachusetts.
Flute joined the Natick High School football team and spent time as a safety and receiver his freshman year.
Natick High. Home of Doug Flutie! pic.twitter.com/dLrp0YLQSL
— C. Michael Gibson MD (@CMichaelGibson) December 2, 2016
During his sophomore year, Doug replaced Billy as Natick’s starting quarterback, and Billy was moved to receiver.
The Flutie brothers proved to be outstanding athletes and rarely left the field while playing multiple positions.
In fact, Doug Flutie once made a 38-yard field goal to win a game.
By the time he graduated from high school, Flutie was an All-League athlete in football, basketball, and baseball.
Additionally, he was a member of the Prep All-American Football Squad and an academic All-American.
“We knew he was very, very good,” said Tom Lamb, Flutie’s high school coach. “Did I think he would win a Heisman Trophy and do all he has done professionally? I wish I could say that, but I didn’t.”
Last-Minute Scholarship to Boston College
It was evident that Flutie had the ability to play football and a large number of schools recruited him.
Unfortunately, none offered him a scholarship. It was never said out loud, but the belief was that Flutie’s height was an issue.
Eventually, Boston College came calling, but not because they were necessarily enamored with Flutie.
The Eagles’ football program had lost out on two quarterback recruits and the coaching staff took a flyer on the kid from Natick.
Boston College didn’t really view Flutie as their quarterback of the future, but they believed he could help the team somehow.
Flutie accepted the scholarship and then proved the coaching staff correct in their assessment.
Flutie becomes the Starter
As a freshman in 1981, Flutie was buried on the depth chart and began the year as the number five quarterback.
Given his competitive nature, Flutie did not stay buried for long.
He continued grinding away and eventually made his way to fourth string.
By midseason, the Eagles’ starting quarterback was out with an injury and the second and third-string quarterbacks weren’t getting the job done.
Flutie was given the opportunity to play, and during a game against Army on October 24, he passed for 244 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-6 victory.
Doug Flutie, Boston College (1981-84) pic.twitter.com/mevxvG6uGR
— collegefootballguy (@cfootballguy24) August 2, 2019
The following week saw a matchup with the University of Pittsburgh and their sensational junior quarterback, Dan Marino.
Despite some slick play that included shovel passes and left-handed throws (Flutie is right-handed), Boston College fell short 29-24.
The Eagles would finish the ‘81 season 5-6 and Flutie had 1,652 yards, 10 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
He also finished as the ninth-ranked passer in the nation.
Flutie and BC Gain Attention
In 1982, Flutie passed for over 2,700 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 20 picks.
His high interception count belied the fact that Flutie was leading BC to respectability.
During a game against Penn State in late October, Flutie passed for 520 yards in a losing effort.
The ‘82 Eagle team ended the season 8-3-1 and lost to Auburn 33-26 in the Tangerine Bowl, BC’s first bowl appearance in 40 years.
During the contest, Flutie ran for a touchdown, two-two point conversions, and also passed for two scores.
He was named MVP of the game despite the loss.
In 1983, Flutie officially became a household name while passing for 2,724 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.
Boston College QB Doug Flutie 🦅 pic.twitter.com/ynYaH51poS
— Fifth Quarter (@FifthQuarter) April 14, 2021
He was named a second-team All-American and placed third in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
Meanwhile, the Eagles raced to a 9-3 finish and took their 13th overall ranking into the Liberty Bowl against Notre Dame.
In the first half of the game, Flutie connected for two touchdowns, but a PAT and two-point conversion try were no-good and the Irish led at halftime 19-12.
Flutie found Scott Gieselman for another score in the third quarter, but his two-point conversion try was knocked away.
The Eagles nearly stole the game when they drove to the Irish 35 with just over a minute remaining.
Time would run out, unfortunately, and Notre Dame escaped with a 19-18 win.
Flutie was named the game’s MVP after passing for 287 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.
A Hail-Mary Winner in 1984
With Flutie entrenched as the starter, Boston College was undergoing a massive popularity shift.
A program that had been to only three bowl games in its history before Flutie arrived had now appeared in two straight and looked to go to yet another postseason contest after the 1984 season.
‘84 was Flutie’s senior year and he did not disappoint.
— BC Football (@BCFootball) August 5, 2017
The Eagles won their first four games (including a thriller over Alabama) before getting tripped up by West Virginia by one point in late October.
Two weeks later, BC lost to Penn State by a touchdown, then the team continued rolling through the rest of the season.
On November 23, the Eagles made their way to Florida to take on the University of Miami Hurricanes.
Jimmy Johnson, who was in his first year with the program, coached the ‘Canes.
Miami’s starting quarterback was Bernie Kosar and the match-up between Flutie and Kosar was television rating gold.
As expected, the game was a slugfest in rainy, ugly weather with both sides not backing down an inch.
At halftime, BC was leading 28-21, but Miami tied it by the end of the third quarter.
The Eagles had the lead with three minutes remaining, but the Hurricanes re-gained the lead with less than a minute left.
While Miami fans were celebrating early, Flutie believed he had more than enough time left.
A couple of quick passes and BC made their way to the ‘Canes 48-yard line with six seconds left.
After the ball was snapped, Flutie rolled to his right and scrambled backward away from a charging Miami defender.
He then heaved a “Hail Mary” attempt from his own 36-yard line toward the end zone.
Miraculously, the ball made its way past a group of BC and Miami players and into the waiting hands of Eagles receiver Gerard Phelan (Flutie’s roommate) who had snuck past the group and stood in the end zone.
Today in 1984, Doug Flutie completes the most famous pass of his career as Boston College stuns Miami 47-45 on the game's final play. pic.twitter.com/hPTddATs6a
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) November 23, 2016
The Boston College players immediately mobbed Flutie and Phelan as BC escaped with one of the most exciting victories in college football history.
“I didn’t know Phelan was behind us,” Miami freshman safety Darrell Fullington told ESPN after the game. “I took my eye away from him for just one second to see where Flutie was, and it was too late. I looked back, and the ball was in the air, and Phelan was past me. I jumped as hard as I could, but …”
During the Miami game, Kosar passed for 447 yards and two touchdowns, and Flutie threw for 476 yards and three touchdowns.
The win helped propel Flutie into the national spotlight and he would be awarded the Heisman Trophy a week later.
Doug Flutie – Boston College, Heisman Trophy 1984 pic.twitter.com/mTw33UjN48
— Old School Boston (@OldSchoolBoston) October 24, 2019
He was modest in his acceptance noting, “Without the Hail Mary pass I think I could have been very, very easily forgotten.”
That year, Flutie passed for 3,454 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 11 picks as Boston College went 10-2 including a win over the University of Houston in the Cotton Bowl.
In addition to the Heisman, Flutie was a first-team All-American and also received the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien Awards.
Additionally, he was an exceptional student in the classroom and was a candidate for the Rhodes Scholarship in his senior year.
Because of Flutie’s fame, Boston College saw a huge uptick in applications for admissions which was described as the “Flutie Effect.”
In 2008, BC honored him with a statue outside of Alumni Stadium throwing his “Hail Mary” pass.
— Lee Pace (@LeePaceTweet) October 3, 2020
Flutie’s number 22 has also been retired by the football program.
Flutie goes to Work for Trump
Even though Flutie was a star at the college level, he was viewed as too small to play quarterback at the NFL level.
During a televised interview, he was asked if a person his size (5’9”, 175 pounds) could make it in the pros.
“Yes, he can,” Flutie answered. “But it’s a matter of ability and not size. I feel I can play; I don’t know for sure, and those questions will be answered in the future.”
Although the NFL may not have been interested, the USFL was.
The spring league was proving to be a competitive alternative to the NFL with owners bringing in former NFL players and recent college players.
In the 1985 USFL territorial draft, the New Jersey Generals selected Flutie.
Generals owner, Donald Trump, negotiated a deal with Flutie that would pay him $7 million over five years.
— The Sporting News Archives (@sportsphotos) February 6, 2015
It was the richest deal for any rookie in any sport.
Since he signed with New Jersey, Flutie was bypassed in the NFL Draft held months later until the LA Rams selected him with the 285th overall selection in the 11th round.
With his new deal in hand, Flutie promptly threw interceptions on each of his first two professional passes.
The debut didn’t get much better and Flutie would end the afternoon completing just seven of 18 passes for 174 yards and 51 yards rushing.
He would bounce back to throw for 2,109 yards and 13 touchdowns during the season as the Generals finished with an 11-7 record and second place in the USFL’s Eastern Conference.
Not long after the ‘85 season ended, the USFL folded.
The NFL at Last
Now that he was no longer a USFL player, Flutie looked to play in the NFL.
The Rams still held his rights but traded the rights to the Chicago Bears in October of 1986.
Flutie reported to Chicago and saw action in four games that year.
Before the 1987 season, the Bears traded him to the New England Patriots.
After posting just 199 yards and a touchdown in 1987, Flutie received more paying time in 1988.
In early October, he came off the bench against the Indianapolis Colts and led a comeback victory where he scored the winning touchdown on a 13-yard run.
— The Thrill of Victory (@ThrillVictory) September 13, 2020
Flutie remained the starter for the next nine games and led the Patriots to a 6-3 record during that time.
With the franchise on the brink of making the playoffs, New England head coach Raymond Berry made an odd choice and benched Flutie in favor of Tony Eason, who had not seen action in over a year.
At that point, Flutie had passed for over 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns along with 179 yards rushing and another score.
The Pats lost their last game of the season with Eason and were eliminated from playoff contention.
In 1989, Flutie started three games and threw for 493 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions as New England went 5-11.
Once the season ended, the Patriots released Flutie.
Flutie makes the CFL his new home
Following his release from New England, Flutie would be idle for six months without any interest from NFL teams.
When the Canadian Football League’s British Columbia Lions offered him a contract, Flutie headed north of the border.
In his first season with the Lions, Flutie struggled and BC ended the year with a 6-11-1 record.
In 1991, Flutie rebounded to throw a CFL record 6,619 yards as the Lions went 11-7 and fell to the Calgary Stampeders in the playoffs.
— SportsPaper (@SportsPaperInfo) October 13, 2019
That season, Flutie was named a CFL All-Star and the league’s Most Outstanding Player.
His remarkable ‘91 season led Calgary to sign Flutie to a million-dollar contract in 1992.
The Stampeders would thrive with Flutie and end ‘92 with a 13-5 record and a Grey Cup championship where Flutie was also the game’s MVP.
He would spend three more years with the club, appearing in the playoffs every season including a Grey Cup loss to the Baltimore Stallions in 1995.
In 1996, the Toronto Argonauts signed Flutie and he worked his magic with that franchise as well.
In two seasons with the club, Flutie passed for over 5,000 yards both years and tossed 47 touchdowns in 1997.
Toronto also won back-to-back Grey Cups in 1996 and 1997.
After eight years in the CFL, Flutie had 41,355 passing yards and 270 touchdowns.
Doug Flutie had one scholarship offer. One. He went on to win the Heisman Trophy, was recognized as the greatest player in CFL history, won 3 Grey Cups (3MVPs), 6 MOP Awards, and NFL Comeback Player of the Year. How come the experts didn’t know what he was capable of? pic.twitter.com/S91x2YOpbK
— Chuck Crabbe (@CoachCCrabbe) February 18, 2020
His 6,619 yards in ‘91 remains a professional football record.
Flutie led the CFL in passing five times, won three Grey Cups and three Grey Cup MVP awards, won four All-Canadian Quarterback awards, and was named the CFL’s Most Oustanding Player a record six times.
Return to the NFL
In 1998, the Buffalo Bills signed Flutie as a backup behind Rob Johnson.
He sat on the sidelines until early October when Johnson was injured and Flutie passed for two touchdowns in a comeback win over Indianapolis.
The following week he was made the starter and beat the undefeated Jacksonville Jaguars on a touchdown run in the final seconds.
Buffalo continued to roll as Flutie led the franchise to an 8-3 record as a starter.
He then passed for 360 yards in the Wild Card round against the Miami Dolphins, a game the Bills would lose 24-17.
Flutie was a hero in Buffalo and a cereal was created called Flutie Flakes in honor of his play and as a fundraiser for his son, Doug Jr., who has autism.
Happy Birthday to Bills Legend, QB, Doug Flutie!
✅Pro Bowl (‘98)
✅NFL Comeback Player of the Year
✅Flutie Flakes 🥣
✅Legend status pic.twitter.com/X5UYfQUBTs
— Bills Legends Community (@BillsLegends) October 23, 2019
He was also recognized by his peers and was named to the 1998 Pro Bowl roster, where he had the distinction of being the shortest quarterback to appear in the game since 1970.
Flutie was also named the league’s Comeback Player of the Year for the ‘98 season.
In 1999, Flutie had the Bills firing on all cylinders and led the organization to a 10-5 record.
He passed for over 3,000 yards for the first time as an NFL player and also rushed for a career-high 476 yards and a touchdown.
Then, in a situation similar to his experience in New England, Bills head coach Wade Phillips decided to start Johnson instead of Flutie in the Wild Card game against the Tennessee Titans.
In what would become known as the “Music City Miracle,” Johnson was sacked six times and only completed 10 passes during the 22-16 last-minute loss.
The following year, Flutie was Johnson’s backup yet still started five games.
In his five starts, Flutie had a 4-1 record that included a game against Seattle where he had a perfect passer rating.
— Johnny Primetime: #BillsMafia #RKO (@Dyllion17) February 10, 2022
After the season, the organization kept Johnson and cut Flutie.
Flutie becomes a Charger
In 2001, Flutie joined the San Diego Chargers and was given an opportunity to start every game.
That same year, Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson were drafted by the organization and Brees served the season as Flutie’s understudy.
In Week 7, Buffalo came to town and pitted Flutie against Rob Johnson with Flutie running in the winning score.
The victory put the Chargers at 5-2, but they lost the rest of their games resulting in coach Mike Riley’s firing.
In ‘01, Flutie passed for an NFL career-high of 3,464 yards along with 15 touchdowns and 18 picks.
The following season, Flutie and Brees swapped roles, and Flutie essentially served as a coach on the sidelines for the second-year pro.
Flutie would then replace Brees eight games into the 2003 season as San Diego began the year 1-7.
One week later, Flutie rushed for two scores against the Minnesota Vikings, making him the oldest player (41 at the time) to score two rushing touchdowns in the same game.
San Diego ended the year 4-12 as Flutie passed for over 1,000 yards, passed for nine touchdowns, and rushed for 168 yards and two more scores.
Brees got back on track in 2004 and led the Chargers to a 12-4 record and a playoff loss to the Jets.
— Eric Stangel (@EricStangel) October 9, 2018
During the last game of the regular season, Flutie got some playing time and broke Jerry Rice’s record, becoming the oldest player ever to score a touchdown at 42 years and 71 days.
In March of 2005, San Diego released Flutie.
One Final Year in New England then Retirement
Not long after leaving San Diego, Flutie signed a contract with New England that brought him home and brought his career full circle.
In 2005 he served as a backup to Tom Brady and saw action in five games.
A day after Christmas the Pats were playing the Jets and both teams sent in their backup quarterbacks.
New York trotted out Vinny Testaverde, and with Flutie also playing, it marked the first occasion in NFL history that two quarterbacks over the age of 40 played against each other (Testaverde was 42, Flutie was 43).
Then, in the final game of the regular season, Flutie went into the contest to drop-kick an extra point.
The conversion was successful and marked the first time since 1941 that a drop-kick was used in an NFL game.
In 2006, New England Patriots QB Doug Flutie converted a drop kick for an extra point after a 4th quarter TD against the Miami Dolphins
— Let’s Talk NFL 🏈 (@TalkFootball34) August 19, 2021
After the season, Flutie hinted that he would like to return in 2006 but ultimately decided against it.
During his NFL career, Flutie passed for 14,715 yards, 86 touchdowns, and 68 interceptions.
He also rushed for 1,634 yards and 10 touchdowns, including the NFL record for most rushing yards after age 40 with 212.
Flutie’s total career stats, which include his time in the CFL and one year in the USFL, is 58,179 passing yards, 369 touchdowns, 237 interceptions, and 6,759 rushing yards, and 82 rushing touchdowns.
Life After Football
Immediately after retiring, Flutie found his way to television where he was a college football and United Football League analyst with ESPN, ABC, NBC, and Versus from 2006 to the present.
He currently has his own podcast called the Flutie Flakescast and has made appearances in Dancing with the Stars and WWE events.
Flutie has also spent time playing drums while his brother, Darren (a fellow NFL and CFL alum), plays guitar in the Flutie Brothers Band.
In 2007, Flutie was inducted into the Boston College Varsity Club, Canada’s Sports, and College Football Halls of Fame.
The following year he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and in 2009 he was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.
When he isn’t on television or the radio, Flutie spends time with his wife, Laurie, and continues to care for Doug Jr.
Happy Father’s Day! Thank you to all the autism dads who work tirelessly to build a world where children & adults w/ autism are accepted, included and respected. Extra shoutout to @DougFlutie, the dad who started the Flutie Foundation 24 years ago in his son, Dougie Jr.’s name. pic.twitter.com/zCknLxUm3a
— Flutie Foundation (@flutiefdn) June 19, 2022
The Fluties established The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, Inc. in honor of him.
Their daughter, Alexa, was formerly a cheerleader with the Patriots and the Chargers.