The Flutie Family's Thanksgiving Football Tradition

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Natick High School quarterback Troy Flutie practices in a jersey with the same number — 22 — his uncle, Doug Flutie, wore at Boston College. (Curt Nickisch/WBUR)
Natick High School quarterback Troy Flutie practices in a jersey with the same number — 22 — his uncle, Doug Flutie, wore at Boston College. (Curt Nickisch/WBUR)

One of the greatest moments in Boston sports history happened on Nov. 23, 1984, when Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie threw a “Hail Mary” pass to stun Miami at the Orange Bowl.

"Here's your ballgame, folks, as Flutie takes the snap," longtime announcer Dan Davis said, making the radio call. "He drops straight back, has some time, now scrambles away from one hit, looks, uncorks a deep one to the end zone, Phelan is down there. OH HE GOT! DID HE GET IT? HE GOT IT! TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN, BOSTON COLLEGE! HE DID IT! HE DID IT! FLUTIE DID IT!”

This Thanksgiving, there’s another Flutie at quarterback.

"Flutie in the shotgun," says a Needham community access TV announcer, with decidedly less energy. "Keeps it. And he gets the first down, and he is in the end zone for a touchdown."

That Flutie is Troy Flutie, Doug Flutie’s nephew. And the sophomore is quarterbacking the same Natick High School team that Doug led before heading off to BC. And Thursday the latest chapter in the Flutie football story will be written. On Thanksgiving Day, Natick plays its last game of the year against big rival Framingham.

Earlier this week, Natick High players in red jerseys and white helmets ran through one of their last practices of the season, as shadows stretched across the field. The Thanksgiving game against Framingham goes back more than 100 years, but the shadow of history falls even more squarely on one player.

"There’s pressure that I have to live up to my uncle and my dad," says 15-year-old Troy. "There’s also pressure that people are saying I’m a Flutie and I’m only playing 'cause I’m a Flutie."

Troy looks as if he feels no pressure. At six feet tall, he’s already three inches taller than his famous uncle. The late autumn sun gives an auburn glow to the hair curling from his helmet. But inside the training facility just off the field, inside the squat, cinder block building, his father and the other coaches are drawing up plays for Troy to execute.

"Pump it and look for it," receivers coach Darren Flutie says as others look on, nodding. Darren played at Natick High like his star brother, Doug. The brothers played together at Boston College, and then in the Canadian Football League before Doug made it to the NFL. But Darren says the traditional Thanksgiving game against Framingham holds the most memories.

The season's overall message is front and center in the Natick HS coaches' room. (Curt Nickisch/WBUR)
The season's overall message is clear in the Natick HS coaches' room. (Curt Nickisch/WBUR)

"If you go back long enough in the '80s and late '70s when my brother Bill and Doug and myself played here at Natick," Darren remembers, "I mean our whole family, and certainly Thanksgiving, was built around football. You play Thanksgiving Day, come home, have dinner, and just sit and watch football all day like a lot of football families do. It brings back a lot of great memories. Now to have our kids, especially my son old enough to play in this game, it’s exciting!"

Out on the field, head coach Mark Mortarelli runs his sophomore quarterback through quick passing drills. Natick runs a no-huddle spread offense that makes the most of Troy’s ability to run and throw. But that style offense also demands a lot of his young QB.

"You know he watches a lot of film," Mortarelli says, whistle in hand as he watches his players practice. "He knows what we’re trying to do. He makes the correct checks at the line. We really gave him a lot of responsibility and he can handle it."

Natick’s team has a 7-2 record — remarkable for a sophomore quarterback. But Troy Flutie wasn’t always so capable. His center, senior Andrew Grassey, says that when Troy got the QB job last year, he was nervous and made a lot of mistakes.

"Coming in as a freshman, being a starting quarterback on a varsity team is tough, to say the least," Grassey says. "I think he got a lot more comfortable this year, and I think, working with us in the offseason, being with us all offseason, just got him more comfortable. I think we all welcome him in, and he’s done a great job this year."

So far this season, Troy has run for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s also thrown for more than 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns. One of the receivers he’s connected with is Derek Kane, who gets a kick out of catching the passes of someone named Flutie.

Troy Flutie practices swing passes ahead of Natick's game against Framingham. (Curt Nickisch/WBUR)
Troy Flutie practices swing passes ahead of Natick's game against Framingham. (Curt Nickisch/WBUR)

"It’s kind of like playing with a famous person," Kane says. "Knowing how the whole family went, a bunch of them go to BC, two of them went on to play in the NFL. I think it’s especially exciting because he’s pretty much the last Flutie to come through."

Troy is often compared to his uncle, the short, scrappy, hard-throwing Heisman Trophy-winner Doug, whose Hail Mary heave is sometimes called the “Hail Flutie.” But Troy fends off the comparison.

"I’m a little more like my dad, I think," Troy says. "I think he’s got a great arm for a receiver. I think he was a great runner. My uncle was a good runner, though. But I think I’m more like my dad."

His dad, Darren, says he just wants Troy to make his own experiences, his own memories.

"The way Troy approaches it, and hopefully the way I’ve brought him up," Darren says, "is just enjoy these high school years, and take it in on Thursday on Thanksgiving, just take it in and enjoy it, and play your tail off.

"It goes by so quickly. Before he knows it, he’ll be my age and he’ll come back for this Thanksgiving Day game, and it’ll be great memories, and you want to have great memories of these games, and know that you just gave it your all. And you can say that when you’re older. That’s very important."

On Thanksgiving Day at 10 a.m., Troy will take the field to try to lead Natick to a win over rival Framingham, something he failed to do last year. Afterward, the extended Flutie family will share in Thanksgiving dinner.

They’ll watch football on TV, and look forward to watching Friday’s match-up between Boston College and Miami, the reprise of the "Hail Flutie" game. But if the latest chapter in the Flutie Family Thanksgiving story is a good one, that is, if Troy leads Natick, the Red and Blue, to a win, that turkey is going to taste so much better.

Headshot of Curt Nickisch

Curt Nickisch Business & Technology Reporter
Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.



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