Originally published in San Diego Magazine
Pristine skies and vacation-caliber weather are omnipresent clues. But for Doug Flutie, one nonmeteorological moment brought his new surroundings into perspective.
“I knew I was in California when I was listening to the radio and heard an ad for breast implants,” says the San Diego Chargers’ new starting quarterback. “The standards here are different. Out here, anything goes. I’m a very conservative person. I’m an East Coast guy. It’s much more conservative back east—more … Norman Rockwell.”
It’s the second day of preseason training camp. We meet during a lunch break between two-a-day practices on the campus of the University of California, San Diego. Flutie is busily downing a ranch dressing–doused salad and a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs. In two days, he’s already done nearly two dozen interviews. He and his new La Jolla home were featured on ESPN’s The Life. Besides the usual national sports outlets, Nick Jr. (a kids’ cable channel) and the Food Network—Bam!—have requested Flutie’s time. At (almost) 5-foot-10, he may be shorter than the prototype NFL quarterback—but to the media and general public, he looms larger than life.
If you’ve never heard of this man, well, get your head out of that stock portfolio. Douglas Richard Flutie won the Heisman Trophy in 1984. He led Boston College to the greatest comeback win in NCAA history. That 47-45 victory over Miami was capped by possibly the most famous last-second Hail Mary pass in all of football.
Generally regarded as a runt by NFL general managers, Flutie was relegated for eight years to the less prestigious—but arguably more exciting—Canadian Football League. In that time, he was six times named the Most Outstanding Player in the league and won three Grey Cups (the CFL’s Super Bowl equivalent).
In 1998, Flutie signed with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. He continued to win games (his winning percentage is second among active NFL passers). Inexplicably, he couldn’t convince management to keep him as the starter. So earlier this year, the Chargers signed the 38-year-old Flutie to a six-year deal worth $30.3 million. He is guaranteed about half that figure over the first two years.
Owner Alex Spanos’ payroll has never been better invested.