Almost 20 years ago he was the Buffalo Bills’ little quarterback that could. On Tuesday he was back on television for the season finale of Dancing with the Stars.
There’s much more to Doug Flutie than football.
“You always think people are going to take a shot at you and you're ready,” said Flutie between rehearsals in Los Angeles. “You always have your back up. You always have that chip on your shoulder, and you don't want to give them any window of opportunity to criticize you because you've dealt with it your whole life.”
If those are the words Doug Flutie lives by, he didn't do a good job following them this spring. For six weeks the former Bills quarterback and fan favorite put himself out there for the nation to see, on the hit show… and he didn't do too badly.
“The fact that I made it to week six was a big achievement for me. It felt like a success,” said Flutie.
For a man without a dancing background, most would agree. And just like he captured the imagination of Western New York sports fans in the late 1990's, he captured the hearts of so many when he shared the emotional story of how he lost both of his parents within an hour last November.
“Dad had been ill and he was in rough shape,” he said during one of the episodes. “After a week in the hospital my father passed away. Dad had passed, mom got up, walked over, gave him a kiss on the forehead, and then fell forward and was gone.”
In what was arguably the most memorable night on the show this season, Flutie followed that story with a heartfelt dance to honor his late parents.
Said Flutie of that episode: “It was very special. I think the reason it was special is because I had an opportunity to give tribute to my parents for what they had brought me, or given me, the opportunities throughout my life.”
While Doug honored his parents with a dance a few weeks ago, he continued to honor his son Doug Junior and so many others like him on Tuesday. Doug Flutie, Junior was diagnosed with autism at age three. His father started the foundation in his name, when he came to Buffalo in 1998, to help families with autistic children. For the finale Flutie auctioned off the tickets he was allotted to the show, with the money going to his foundation.
Flutie said competing on the show really simulated a football season. He had to learn a new dance routine each week, perform, enjoy it for 24 hours, then move on to the next routine. Talking about the game where he made his name brought him back to his days running around in that Bills uniform.
Asked 7 Eyewitness Sports Anchor Shawn Stepner: “What do you remember most about your time with the Bills?”
“I have this image of jumping into Bruce Smith's arms after running the ball in on the fourth down play against Jacksonville and winning that game,” answered Flutie.
Flutie might have jumped into Bruce's arms on the sidelines back then, but he found old teammate Ruben Brown in the end zone first. Brown says there's no one like the guy he used to protect on game days.
“Anybody in his way, watch out. Get out of the way, man. That little guy is a dynamo. He's special,” said Brown.
The undersized QB, who was always underestimated, looked down upon from the outside. But people who know him tell a different story. That’s kind of like Western New York. That’s kind of like Buffalo.
“Do you think Doug Flutie is the perfect personification of what Buffalo is as a city?” asked Stepner.
Said Flutie: “I think a little bit. I've never really looked at it that way. But yeah, you've got a chip on your shoulder as a city. Maybe a lot of big time free agents, they don't want to go to Buffalo to play. So, yeah it's that underdog feeling. No doubt about it. I think I can relate to the city.”
Flutie currently lives in in Florida. He says he's still a kid at heart and says he wants fans to know just how much he enjoyed his playing days in Buffalo.
Follow Shawn Stepner on Twitter: @StepnerWKBW