Former Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie was not your typical superstar. He wasn’t the biggest guy in the world. He wasn’t the best athlete on the field. He didn’t play for a college football powerhouse. But the guy had an absolute cannon attached to his right shoulder and became a household name because of it.
In 1984, Flutie was the best player in the country. He was a Unanimous All-American who won every major award possible. The Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Davey O’Brien Award, UPI Player of the Year and Sporting News Player of the Year all were trophies with his name on it from that season.
What he’s most known for, however, is perhaps the greatest throw in college football history.
The “Hail Flutie” Touchdown Pass
On November 23, 1984, the Boston College Eagles and Miami Hurricanes got into one of those classic shootouts that are mainly seen in video games. It was a clash of nationally-ranked teams, but a muddy Orange Bowl field wasn’t going to stop those two offenses that night in South Florida.
The stats from that game on CBS are as absurd as they are legendary. Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar threw for a school-record 447 yards with two touchdowns, while running back Melvin Bratton added four scores of his own. BC quarterback Doug Flutie passed for 472 yards and four touchdowns.
His last is what every single football fan knows about.
With six seconds remaining, and the ball at the 48-yard line, Flutie took the snap under center. He dropped back in a hurry, then scrambled right to get away from pressure. What happened next is still hard to believe.
From over 60 yards away, the 5-foot-9 Flutie let the Hail Mary pass fly, and the perfect spiral landed right into the arms of wide receiver Gerard Phelan in the end zone.
Boston College 47, Miami 45.
“It was a matter of who had the ball last, and with 28 seconds I thought if we could get it to the 50-yard line we’d have a 50-50 chance at a touchdown,” Flutie said during postgame. “It’s a real shot in the dark, but stranger things have happened.”
The “Miracle in Miami” was born, and “Hail Flutie” became the play’s nickname. It went down as a 48-yard touchdown pass from Flutie to Phelan, but that final play meant so much more.
Jack Bicknell’s Eagles, who played in the Cotton Bowl Classic that season, took down Jimmy Johnson and the defending national champions. Flutie out-dueled Kosar and eventually took home the Heisman Trophy. It is still considered one of the greatest football games in NCAA history and proved Flutie had the arm strength to get it to the end zone.
Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary also helped him launch a 21-year professional career in the USFL, CFL, and NFL. The 1985 NFL Draft selection made the Pro Bowl with the Buffalo Bills and finished his career in 2005 as the backup to Tom Brady with the New England Patriots.
Nothing tops the comeback against the University of Miami, though, and the touchdown pass that made him a legend forever.
This post was originally published on May 13, 2020.