Doug Flutie Hail Mary Pass | The Miracle in Miami
“There’s not many kids that young who have their futures guaranteed,” says Dick.
“You mean financially? Well, great,” Joan says. “That’s not what he wants.”
“He’s still a quarterback,” says Dick.
“Chicago didn’t want him,” Joan says. “The Patriots don’t want him. There’s got to be someplace that wants him.”
They sit outside the house for a few more minutes then drive just up the road. They want to show me where Doug played with his friends, the pasture where balls hit over the stone walls were home runs. New houses have been built since they were up here last; a chain stretches across the path where the kids once ran. A sign reads “No Trespassing.” They stop there just a moment, then Dick heads for home, a handsome house, number 22 on the street, with a wide lawn that slopes to a lake; it, too, is a gift from Doug.
On a morning in June, Doug sits at the dining table in his parents’ house, a plate of doughnuts and a glass of orange juice before him. On the wall above the table, looking down, is a huge portrait of Dick. On the walls, flowing from room to room, is a river of photographs of Doug and his brothers, framed newspaper clippings, framed magazine stories. When Doug first became famous, a reporter asked Dick how long his son had been a star. “He’s always been a star,” Dick replied.
The previous night Flutie’s agent had wanted him to attend the celebrity opening of the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston, but instead he came here to eat pizza and watch the Leonard-Hearns fight. He looks tired. He wears navy blue sweatpants. His light blue T-shirt reads “Bermuda.” A summer of golf has tanned him as dark as a lifeguard. Sometimes his mother looks at him with his hair flowing down the back of his neck and laments what she sees as the influence of his rock star friend Jon Bon Jovi. Sometimes when she complains, he shoots back that if she hadn’t been smoking when she carried him perhaps he would have been 6’3″ like his brother Bill.
She has warned me that Doug dislikes interviews. “He can’t sit still,” she said. This is true. But also the past years have made him leery of the press. With the Generals he sometimes took a pounding from the New York papers. “Doug was upset,” recalled Chris Palmer, a former Generals coach, now at Boston University. “I said, ‘Doug, you can’t read the papers. This isn’t Boston College, everyone on the same scholarship. Your salary makes you CEO. And people expect you to play like one every game.’ ” After his free-wheeling college heroics he felt stifled by the Generals’ conservative offense, but he never sounded off to the press. Sometimes, though, when he came back to Natick he’d start fussing with Joan that his eggs weren’t right or the toast was burnt.
He phones now to check on whether he got the longest drive at a golf tournament the day before. The prize is a dozen free golf balls. (After he’s played a game of golf, he calls his parents on his car phone, replaying the game, shot by shot.) He returns from the phone with the news that he got the longest drive, 286 yards.
“I thought you got 312,” Joan says.
“That was downhill,” Doug says.
“Who cares,” she says, “312.”
He picks up a football lying under a chair. It is soft, the dogs have been chewing on it. He shifts it from hand to hand, squeezing the seams. To his fans he appears slight, a wraith among giants, but his forearms and hands seem to belong to a much larger man. Nearly every day he runs several miles, plays basketball, lifts weights, and the muscles have matured his face and body. A few years ago it was reported that the Patriots had refused to draft the local hero because coach Raymond Berry thought he lacked the strength for the NFL.
“Lifting weights has nothing to do with playing quarterback,” he says. ” In high school I never touched a weight. I weighed 165 pounds and I could throw a football 65 yards. I can bench press 250 pounds now, and I’m twice as strong, and I throw the ball the same distance. But I want to beat out the other quarterbacks in all the strength tests. Then I’ll stop lifting.”
His friends and former coaches say that the frustrations of the past five years have taken their toll on the unflagging optimism that once sparked his play. “See, he knows he can’t have a bad day,” Jack Bicknell said. “A bad day means he’s proved all the people right who say, ‘See, he can’t play.’ I saw him a couple of times in the pros and I knew it wasn’t him. Because he sort of went into a shell. In fact I wrote him. I said, ‘Doug, what the heck are you doing? Play the way you’ve always played.’ ”