In this 1985 photo, Doug Flutie and his wife, Laurie, unveil a sign in Natick, Massachusetts, honoring his game-winning play during the 1984 Boston College–Miami showdown at the Orange Bowl. Flutie was a star athlete at Natick High, and even today his ties to the town remain strong.Photo Credit : Ted Dully/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
As Thanksgiving feasts give way to Black Friday frenzy, shoppers in the town of Natick, Massachusetts, may be reminded of another day after Thanksgiving, back in 1984, that marked a high-water mark in local pride, not to mention college football history. Connecting two of Natick’s major retail centers is Flutie Pass, a road whose modest half-mile length belies the outsized feat it commemorates.
After spending his childhood in Maryland and Florida, Doug Flutie moved to Natick with his family in 1976. He was a high school standout in basketball, baseball, and especially football, where he played quarterback. But as a college prospect, Flutie was a tough sell because of his size: just under 5 foot 10. Finally, Boston College offered him its last available scholarship, an almost offhanded investment that would pay off in a big way. By Flutie’s junior year, he had led BC to two college bowls (the first since 1943), ticket sales had almost tripled, and a Sports Illustrated profile dubbed him a “miracle worker.”
Flutie’s real miracle, though, would come on November 23, 1984, during BC’s match-up against the defending national champions, the University of Miami, in the Orange Bowl. Trailing 45–41, BC was on Miami’s 48-yard line with time for just one last play. As some 30 million people watched on television, Flutie launched a Hail Mary pass from his own 37—and against 30 mph winds—into the end zone, where it dropped into wide receiver Gerard Phelan’s arms, as one Boston Globe writer put it, like “an airmail from God.”
Doug Flutie would go on to have a long and varied professional career, retiring from the game at the age of 43 (after playing a last season for the Patriots, in his beloved New England). But that tremendous 1984 pass—the “Hail Flutie”—was the moment, Flutie once said, that “put the label on me as the ‘It’s never over till it’s over’ guy.” —Jenn Johnson