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And not only is Flutie too short, he's also too light, 174 vs. a de rigueur 190. And not strong; someone has to open the door to the weight room for him. Then there's the matter of his undisciplined playing style. "Anybody can play like a robot." sniffs Flutie.
No wonder not a single Division I-A college—save BC—wanted Flutie, and the Eagles didn't want him much. He received the last scholarship BC had to offer in 1981, and even then some of the BC coaches viewed him as a candidate for the defensive backfield. Flutie's coach at Natick (Mass.) High, Tom Lamb, says, "Doug wasn't the answer to anybody's prayers."
Happily, Bicknell wasn't praying for a statistically ideal quarterback; he was looking for one who could do the job.. "We're not hung up on size or anything else around here," he says. "All I want to know is, 'Can he make the play?' "
Oh, my. Consider that since Flutie took over as BC's starting quarterback in 1981, midway through his freshman year, the Eagles are a miraculous 15-6-1—miraculous, because Boston College is a serious-minded institution where academics truly do come first, yet its team is now succeeding against the big-time likes of Texas A&M and Clemson. In the 37 games before Flutie, stretching back through the '78 season, BC was 13-24. Last year the Flutie-led Eagles went to a bowl (Tangerine, losing to Auburn 33-26) for the first time in 40 seasons, climaxing an 8-3-1 year in which Boston College blitzed Texas A&M 38-16, ruining Jackie Sherrill's debut, and tied defending national champion Clemson 17-17.
Since Flutie's arrival, BC has been on network television twice; on each occasion he was named the game's MVP. And the experts try to tell us it's a team sport. He's already the Eagles' alltime passing leader with 4,990 yards, surpassing the efforts of all others, including BC's previous legend, Jack Concannon, who threw for 2,942 yards. The point is, all Flutie has meant to BC is everything.
But little Flutie is far bigger than merely the best Eagle of all time. He's on the threshold of being the best New England college football player ever. Disregard those snide remarks that, in view of the scant talent the region has produced, the honor is akin to being first in a one-man parade. Tim Cohane, former sports editor of Look magazine, who now lives near BC, says Flutie is the most exciting player in New England since Albie Booth. Booth, on the off chance he escapes your memory, played halfback for Yale between 1929 and 1931.
While playing in just over half of BC's games in his freshman year, Flutie completed 105 of 192 passes for 1,652 yards and 10 touchdowns, ninth best in the nation. Last season he completed 184 of 386 for 3,048 yards and 15 TDs. Against Penn State in 1982 he passed for 520 yards—the single-game best in the land last year—in a performance that reduced the usually articulate Joe Paterno to saying, "That Doug Flutie goes boom, boom, boom and bingo."
Given all his alleged minuses, how come Flutie is succeeding on such a grand scale? The intangibles. Doug's father, Richard, says of his son, "Doug does things you can't measure or clock." Like what? "Just watch him and you'll see." You do see. Flutie is smart and he's quick, but mostly he's excelling because he has a heart bigger than all outdoors and a disgustingly optimistic outlook on everything. And not insignificantly, he loves football.
Boston College is an easy place to love it. BC is a school with great modesty concerning its athletic program—appropriately, because over the years it has had a great deal to be modest about. Athletic Director Bill Flynn says, "We're just a little, bitty place trying to make it in a hard, tough world." Flutie is making it for them. "Mostly," he says, "I'm a competitor." Mostly, he's amazing.
Example: BC was trailing Rutgers last year 13-6 with 1:18 left in the game, the ball on the BC 13 and no time-outs left. It was a situation in which Flutie figured he had Rutgers, as he would have Clemson, where he wanted it. He led the Eagles down the field, overcoming a holding penalty and getting out of a second-and-20 situation en route. Then, with 12 seconds left and under enormous defensive pressure, he threw a kind of side-armed blind pass to a spot in the end zone where he figured Running Back Troy Stradford would be. Stradford was. Needing the two-point conversion for the win, Flutie then executed a nervy, naked bootleg pass to Scott Nizolek for the winning points. "When it comes down to the last minute," says Flutie, "I want to be the guy. I like the responsibility."