Doug Flutie is driving home after playing in an over-50 baseball tournament when he calls for our interview.
The retired quarterback is headed to his house in Melbourne Beach, on Florida’s east coast, after lunch with his teammates, where they’ve lost track of time telling stories and groaning about the umpires.
“I’m hanging out, being a kid, playing baseball,” Flutie says. “We’re in the old-man division, and it’s a war of attrition out there. We’re just trying to get out of a game without getting hurt. But we have a blast.”
The 61-year-old talks about all that keeps him busy since he retired in 2006 from a 21-year career as a pro quarterback – seven spent smashing passing records in the CFL, one in the now-defunct USFL and 13 in the NFL. He’s still in a rock band, he surfs, golfs and plays hockey. He ran his fifth Boston Marathon earlier this year. There are also events for his Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, which he and wife Laurie founded in 1998 and named for their son – now 32 – to help other families like theirs, who live with autism.
Flutie is known for many things – including his ‘Hail Flutie’ touchdown pass at Boston College, for winning the 1984 Heisman Trophy, and for Flutie Flakes breakfast cereal. He won a Grey Cup with the Calgary Stampeders in 1992, two with the Toronto Argonauts, in 1996 and 1997, plus six CFL most-outstanding-player awards. Flutie’s time in Canada is still dear to him.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement will be making a difference in the autism community in my lifetime. We’ve already gone over 25 years with our foundation. That will probably be my legacy, not the athletic stuff.
Who is a person that you admire?
Tom Brady. He achieved things that I always wanted to achieve and yet made everybody on the team feel like they were the reason we won. His work ethic was second to none. But also Pinball [Argos general manager Michael Clemons]. I admire the hell out of Pinball. He keeps a smile on his face 24/7.
What’s your greatest fear?
Not being able to do the things I love – to run and jump and play and field a ground ball. I just played this over-50 tournament, and there was some great baseball. I recently saw a guy hit a ball 400 feet – yeah, that’s a home run right? There’s great pitching, but there’s also lots of old-man moments, too, where guys just can’t bend over to pick up a ball and throw it to first. So I wouldn’t say my greatest fear is growing old, because I’m enjoying it. But I am going to miss the day that I can’t do these things I love.
Is there another talent you wish you had?
My wife and my buddy got me a cool Batman guitar for my birthday and I’d like to learn to play it. I’ve always been a drummer, and I fool around on piano a little, and I can read music, but I want to learn the guitar.
Do you keep tabs on the CFL?
No doubt about it. If I put on an NFL game, I might watch a couple of plays and keep flipping. But when I flip to a CFL game, I leave it on and watch. I started texting [Calgary Stampeders president] John Hufnagel and [Stamps coach and GM] Dave Dickenson towards the end of the season. Hufnagel came down for a reunion of his Penn State buddies and we all golfed together. Pinball and I are still close. I’ve got to set the time aside to go to more Grey Cups, because it is really a big part of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing in Canada. I have a much closer connection with my teams and teammates from my CFL days than my NFL days.
What are your standout memories?
Our first Grey Cup championship was ‘92 in Calgary and what made that happen was a long drive we put together in the last minute of [the West Division final] into the wind against Edmonton and I go into the end zone and the shoe comes flying off and we go to the Grey Cup and win it. That drive is one of my favourite memories because it was my first championship, and my first championship team. But the Toronto championships, for some reason, it seemed like a lot more fun. Don Matthews was the head coach and Pinball was on the team and it was just loose and relaxed in Toronto.
What do you spend your time watching these days?
We’re home watching the Red Sox every night during baseball season. Hockey-wise the Bruins are a lot of fun. I’m a Boston guy so those are my teams. [David] Pastrnak with the Bruins, just amazing hands, he’s fun to watch. I enjoy watching baseball and hockey more than football. Maybe because I played until I was 43 and I cared so much for so long, that I kind of overdid it, burned out and moved on.
You have a grandson now, right?
Yes we do! Brady, the centre of our universe. He will be 2 in December. Everything is about him – ‘Oh my god he yawned, he smiled, did you see that?’ We laugh so much. We take care of him a lot. He’s our first grandchild, and we’re babying the hell out of him.
What is a trait you dislike in others?
My big thing is trust and loyalty. I just want people to be straight up and honest. If they aren’t, that’s my No. 1 pet peeve.
What is a trait you dislike in yourself?
When I don’t like something in myself, I change it. Over the years when I was playing, I felt like I had to be more disciplined. I was always flying by the seat of my pants, relying on my athleticism. But then I got a routine and I made myself more disciplined.
Which authors or musicians resonate with you?
I would have to read books to figure out who my favourite author is! Reading to me was always work. If only books on tape came around back when I was in school, that would have been in my wheelhouse. I was still an honours student. I was a Rhodes Scholar candidate. But reading was like pulling teeth for me.
How about a musician?
Probably Jon Bon Jovi. I’m a big Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, too. But Jon Bon Jovi has had an unbelievable career. He wasn’t critically acclaimed, and it was like ‘hair bands are going to come and go blah, blah, blah’, and he was a great businessman as well. But Jon had a great work ethic.
What is your greatest regret?
I don’t have many regrets, because I’m passionate about going after what I want. But here’s one: At the end of my career, I really wanted to go back and try to play one more year in the CFL, because it was such a big part of my career. But I just wasn’t healthy enough to do it. If I just had a damn elbow surgery first, it could have happened. Actually, I probably would have needed a back surgery first, too!
So you wish you had played your final football in the CFL?
Yeah, because it rekindled my career. My CFL days gave me a jumpstart back into the NFL. I have a much stronger connection with the CFL than I had with the NFL. I would have loved to try, but my back was bothering me at the time and my elbow, too. In fact, Pinball called me about it one time in the middle of the season when they had some injuries. But I had just aggravated my elbow, playing baseball or some other sport. I think it was 2006. Still to this day, when I watch the CFL game I know it so much better than I know the NFL.
What is an invitation that you would love to receive?
I’d love to play Augusta [National Golf Club]. I got invited to those sort of pro-ams when I played in the NFL – but you’re so busy during that time of your life, so you don’t do some of those things right? Later, when you have the time, you wish you had.
Who is your all-time favourite teammate?
I think it’s Pinball. Maybe Dave Sapunjis out in Calgary, too. I leaned on Dave quite a bit and we were very close. And I played eight games with my brother Darren. So does that count? Those eight games together were so much fun – we were doing things that we had done together in the backyard.
Do you have a motto that you live by?
I really don’t. But I think of that line from the movie Arthur: “Isn’t fun the best thing to have? Don’t you wish you were me? I know I do.” Bottom line: If it’s not fun, I’m not doing it. Life’s too short, and you’ve got to enjoy it.