Only six seconds remain on the clock. The Un-Seasonable Football League is deep in its own territory. It needs a miracle here. Doug Flutie takes the snap and fades back under a heavy media rush. He eludes many NFL scouts and sidesteps the blitzing Brian Sipe. Now Walt Michaels is chasing him out of the pocket, but, oh, Michaels goes down on a beautiful block by Donald Trump. No time left now. Flutie flings the ball 64 yards toward his roommate, Gerard Phelan, in the end zone over the outstretched fingers of hundreds of lawyers and loan officers.
Well, something like that happened once, and now the question is whether Flutie can make it happen again—not for Boston College this time, but for the USFL. This week Flutie is scheduled to sign a five-year, $7 million contract with the New Jersey Generals, which will make him the richest player (based on annual salary), not to mention the richest second-string quarterback, in the game.
Other questions were raised after Flutie's attorney. Bob Woolf, announced last Friday that he and the Fluties, father Dick and son, had come to an agreement with Donald (It's My Ball) Trump, the owner of the Generals. What about the NFL, Flutie's league of preference back in December when he won the Heisman Trophy? Whatever happened to Herschel Walker, the 1982 Heisman winner? Whatever happened to Mike Rozier, the '83 Heisman winner? What were the Buffalo Bills waiting for? Doesn't Michaels know on which side his bread is buttered? Is Flutie Pass—the street named after our hero—paved with good intentions?
Here, one at a time, are all the answers you've been waiting for: Last Saturday Flutie said, "Forget the money. It seemed like the situation in New Jersey was just too good. New York City was important. The location is nice. It's close to home. I'm getting to play on the same team with Herschel Walker." So that's where he went. Rozier isn't even that visible. He's a USFL free agent and at week's end was still shopping for a team.
Trump had been coveting Flutie for a long time, and courting him for the last month.
"I think he's really excellent," Trump says. "He's going to be great for the league. I love the concept of having him in the same backfield as Herschel Walker. It opens things up tremendously. They won't be able to just key on Herschel. I've never seen a reaction like this. This is bigger than the Herschel deal."
Two weeks ago Woolf and Flutie met with Trump at his headquarters in New York City's Trump Tower. At one point Flutie was taken to a private theater and shown a five-minute film entitled Trump Tower, A World of Glamour. "That's pretty much the big time to me," said Flutie. Trump had originally planned to take Woolf and Flutie to lunch, but then realized they might draw too much attention. So he had sandwiches brought up. Flutie had the turkey.
"I was struck by Mr. Trump's enthusiasm," said Flutie. "I didn't know what to expect from him. But he was very easy for me to talk to—of course, he did most of the talking."
Where was the NFL during all this? The Bills, who have the first choice in the April draft but could have negotiated with Flutie now if they had so chosen, couldn't decide if Flutie was worth a first pick, much less $7 million. Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell expressed a more active interest, but in essence the league twiddled its thumbs. Here was the most attractive college player in years—or, at least, of this year—and the NFL didn't even buy him a turkey sandwich. Flutie has even popped up in a New Yorker cartoon: A butler, announcing the arrival of a pie-carrying football player and a flag-bearing woman, tells party guests, "The flag, mom, Doug Flutie, and apple pie." NFL scouts may consider Steve Calabria of Colgate a better pro prospect, but he's not about to make The New Yorker.
On Jan. 7, Generals president Jay Seltzer met Woolf in Boston. After 16 days of negotiations, they had the basics of a five-year pact for $7 million, the first three years of which are guaranteed should the USFL, which has lost an estimated $100 million since its inception, call it a ball game. Two days later, Woolf was in New York to appear on Good Morning, America, and after the show he stopped by Howard Cosell's office several blocks south for bagels and coffee. While there, he called Trump, and the two ironed out some details. Then Woolf flew back to Boston and, after he had phoned Seltzer, advised the Fluties to take the offer. A half hour later, at 3 p.m., Doug called Woolf and said, "I'm ready to commit." He also asked how he could get a playbook.