3. Mr. Pixie Dust
Doug Flutie is likely the first name that comes to a Bills fan’s mind when thinking of a successful CFL import who inevitably honed his skills in Western New York. Despite having an esteemed four-year career at Boston College, the 5-foot-10 magician was viewed as being too small to succeed in a league that yearned for towering gunslingers rather than diminutive ones.
As a result, the 1984 Heisman Trophy winner was lured by the Donald Trump owned New Jersey Generals of the USFL, rather than joining the Los Angeles Rams, who decided to take a flier on Flutie in the 11th round of the 1985 NFL Draft.
Flutie went on to play a single season with the Generals before the league abruptly folded in 1986. He then returned to the NFL only to become a periodic starter of 14 games over the course of four seasons for the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots, tallying a disappointing 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. It was time to look north for answers.
During the 1990 season, Flutie decided to sign a two-year, $700,000 contract with the BC Lions of the CFL. Although his first season with the Lions saw the then 27-year-old put up a pedestrian 16 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, the remainder of his CFL career rendered otherworldly results.
Flutie would end up going an absurd 99-27 as a starter for the Lions, Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts over his next seven seasons. He ended his CFL career throwing for over 41,000 yards, 270 touchdowns, was a three-time Grey Cup champion (and the game’s MVP each time to boot), a six-time league MVP and was voted as the greatest player in CFL history by TSN. Despite these ungodly accolades, Flutie still had a chip on his shoulder that could only be removed down on the south side of the border.
It was in January of 1998 when Flutie decided to take a second kick at the NFL can and sign a two-year deal with the Bills. “I’m taking a risk, no question about it,” Flutie told CBS Sports upon putting pen to paper on his new contract. “Right now, my decision is not about money. It’s about playing football and having fun. The CFL put the fun back in football for me. I’m not going to let anybody take the fun out of it for me ever again.”
His three-year tenure with the Bills was definitely a fun ride, which certainly was not void of drama and intrigue. During his first season in Buffalo, Flutie unexpectedly supplanted big money signing Rob Johnson as the team’s starting quarterback. He then proceeded to become a cult-like figure in the community because of his magical ability to evade oncoming pressure. As a result, local grocery stores continually had to replenish their shelves with the ever popular “Flutie Flakes” cereal.
Flutie ended up with a 21-9 record as the team’s starter and led the Bills to two playoff appearances. Much to the chagrin of his faithful fans, the executive decision was made to sit the veteran signal caller in favor of Johnson for the team’s Wild Card playoff game against the Tennessee Titans. We all know how that worked out.
Although things ended on a rather sour note, Flutie galvanized a fan base like few others have been able to do. His NFL “comeback” should certainly be viewed as a resounding success.