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Flutie delivered on the gridiron

43-year-old journeyman NFL quarterback Doug Flutie has decided to finally call it quits, according to an Associated Press report on Monday.

In a game of giants, the Heisman Trophy winner and former Boston College quarterback gave 5-foot-nothings everywhere reason to hope. For short people, seeing Flutie on the gridiron was like seeing Spud Webb on the basketball court. Webb - all 5-foot-7 inches - gave short people, white and black, a reason to believe they could dunk after seeing the Atlanta Hawks star win the NBA's dunking contest in the 80s.

Pint-sized quarterbacks are an anomaly in professional football. While in college, a short quarterback can excel, especially if he can run and pass, in the NFL 6-foot-2 is usually the minimum required height to be an effective signal caller.

The reason?

NFL quarterbacks have to be able to see over those mammoth defensive linemen and linebackers to make an accurate pass.

Offensive coordinators in college love versatile quarterbacks (i.e. Dameyune Craig, Michael Vick, Charley Ward) because roll out passes and the option are particularly effective against opposing defenses.

But in the NFL, running QBs give general managers heart attacks because of the money at stake each time they decide to leave the (relative) safety of the pocket. GMs want quarterbacks who can drop back three or five or seven steps and get rid of the ball as quickly as possible, thereby reducing the chance of injury.

Still, Flutie defied the odds.

As a boy, I remember watching the Miami - Boston College game in 1984 when Flutie all-but captured the Heisman Trophy when his last second 48-yard Hail Mary found the arms of his wide receiver Gerard Phelan. The game was an up-and-down the field offensive showdown. The final tally was 47-45 in favor of BC.

Phelan said later that he held onto that ball like it was his first newborn.

In 1982, Auburn played BC in the Tangerine Bowl. Although the Tigers won, my father and I never thought the game was safe because Flutie was passing Auburn's defensive backs silly.

So while Flutie never won a Super Bowl as a quarterback in the NFL, it's assured that his name will live long after he's gone in the annals of college football. Many Heisman Trophy winners (Houston's Andre Ware, Miami's Gino Toretta) have been forgotten, but Flutie's name has firmly been established in legend.

Mainly because of one rainy day in Miami.

Kevin Pearcey is Group Managing Editor of Greenville Newspapers, LLC. He can be reached by phone at 383-9302, ext. 136 or by email at: editor@greenville.advocate.com.