27 years ago today, two monumental things happened: I was born, and Doug Flutie threw his legendary game-winning Hail Mary pass against Miami.
But how much do we remember the recipient of that pass? While Flutie heaved a ball blindly downfield, Gerard Phelan was the one who made the play on the ball, in traffic, and hauled it in to claim victory for Boston College. Yet there are no statues of Phelan, no remembrances whatsoever.
Sure, Flutie had one hell of a game. He threw for 472 yards and 4 TDs. And Miami's Bernie Kosar threw for 447 yards. It was a classic QB duel. But Phelan made the play.
Flutie won the Heisman that year, and went on to a memorable pro career. Phelan was drafted in the 4th round, but his career was cut short by injuries.
Doug Flutie is the hero from Natick who threw the pass, won the Heisman, and went on to the CFL and NFL. Phelan was from Pennsylvania, and was the receiver of the pass, and was unable to do anything in the pro ranks. But he made the play.
Doug Flutie is a household name. Gerard Phelan isn't. And I think that is kind of a shame. Because he caught the pass off-balance in traffic, while Flutie just tossed it up there. Everyone remembers what Flutie did on this day 27 years ago, yet somehow forget what Phelan did, even though it was the same play.