Doug Flutie Hail Mary Pass | The Miracle in Miami
“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.’ ”
Already he has made three professional stops: the Generals, the Chicago Bears, and now the Patriots. He heard his first boos with the Generals, endured ridicule with the Bears, was benched for the first time with the Patriots. His genius for turning routine plays into unpredictable adventures costs him dearly with the pros, who place a premium on game plans and consistency. In Chicago the Bears’ most visible player, quarterback Jim McMahon, called him “America’s dwarf.” When Flutie started and lost a playoff game against the Washington Redskins, the city of Chicago blamed him for the defeat.
“Doug grew up a lot in Chicago,” Joan said. “He always felt people were good, period. We both grew up in Chicago. It never entered my mind that people would be so nasty. That was Jim McMahon territory. Doug would come home at night in Chicago, and people had written things or thrown eggs on his garage door, and his neighbors would go and clean it up.”
I said I’d ask Doug about that.
“No, please don’t,” Joan said.
He carne from the Bears to the Patriots, the team he had always hoped to play for, in the last days of the player strike in 1987, crossing a picket line he said he would never cross except for the opportunity to come home. “When Doug carne home,” said Joan “everything seemed right. Everybody was right where they were supposed to be.”