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Did Doug Flutie clinch the Heisman with his famous Hail Mary?

November 06, 2012|By Brian Cronin

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Doug Flutie's famous Hail Mary touchdown in the 1984 Orange Bowl clinched the Heisman Trophy for Flutie.

Down 45-41 with just 28 seconds left and on their own 20, Boston College's football team was led by their quarterback, Doug Flutie, to a shocking 47-45 victory over Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl with a now legendary 63-yard touchdown pass (going against the wind) to wide receiver Gerald Phelan. It is undoubtedly one of the most amazing plays in sports history. Less than two weeks later, Flutie received the Heisman Trophy.

Over the years, many reports of the game credited Flutie's outstanding performance in the Orange Bowl in general and the Hail Mary pass in specific to be what clinched the Heisman Trophy for the Boston College senior.

From ESPN: "On a wing and prayer, Boston College shows it's not a fluke, but Flutie. That's Doug Flutie, who will clinch the Heisman Trophy with one magnificent "Hail Mary" throw."

From Sports Illustrated: "That pass certified Flutie's stardom, clinched the Heisman Trophy...and still is a topic of conversation in football circles."

From the Houston Chronicle: "The last time dashing Doug faced a team coached by Jimmy Johnson was in 1984, when the Miami Hurricanes were among the baddest dudes in college football. They are still the only team whose mascot can wreck an entire town. Flutie clinched the Heisman Trophy that season with one play...."

So is that true? Did the play really clinch the Heisman Trophy for Flutie?

Normally, this would be a difficult proposition to prove. Flutie's achievements before the Orange Bowl were certainly worthy of the award, but how do you separate people's views of Flutie before that game than with their views after the game, when Flutie became practically a national icon?

Rather simply, it turns out. You see, while the Heisman Trophy was awarded to Flutie on December 1, 1984, barely a week after the Orange Bowl, the voting was done before bowl season began. So Flutie's strong finish in the Heisman Trophy voting (Flutie received 2,240, 71% of all possible points, easily out-distancing Ohio State running back Keith Byars) had only to do with what he did during the regular college football season (and most likely a bit of a celebration of his entire career at Boston College, including becoming the first quarterback in college football history to throw for more than 10,000 yards in a college career) not his heroics in the Rose Bowl.

So no, the "Hail Flutie" touchdown did not, in fact, clinch the Heisman Trophy for Doug Flutie. Interestingly enough, that's the case every season. The Heisman Trophy voting is always before the bowl season begins, so I am not quite sure how this particular legend got its start. However it got started, though, the legend is...

STATUS: False.

Be sure to check out my Sports Urban Legends Revealed for more sports urban legends! I have archives of all the past urban legends featured on the site in the categories of: Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey, the Olympics and Soccer/Football! Also be sure to check out my Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed for urban legends about the worlds of TV, Movies, Music and more! Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com. And please buy my new book, "Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent?" here. It just recently came out! Also, you might like to purchase my first book, "Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed! here.

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