Flutie: Auburn’s Davis created lifelong memory
Chris Davis ran into the end zone and etched his name in college
Doug Flutie welcomes him to the club.
No. 3 Auburn’s Davis turned in one of the most memorable plays
of college football history with his 109-yard, last-play return of
a missed field goal to beat No. 4 Alabama on Saturday. That comes
with being long identified for a single play, like Hail Flutie.
”There’s no doubt that he’ll always be remembered,” Flutie
said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. ”I think
the majority of the country are going to remember the great return
in the Iron Bowl. I think people in Alabama are going to remember
Chris Davis the rest of their lives.
”Whether it’s an Alabama or Auburn fan, or SEC fans in general,
that’s what he’ll be remembered for. He could win Super Bowls and
have a couple of interceptions and in their mind this is the
crowning moment he’ll always be remembered for.”
Flutie knows. Nearly three decades later, the 1984 Heisman
Trophy winner who went on to play in the CFL and NFL is still best
remembered by millions of fans for his Hail Mary pass to Gerard
Phelan to lift No. 8 Boston College over No. 12 Miami on Nov. 23,
But even Flutie believes this one was different.
The Tigers (11-1) earned a spot in the Southeastern Conference
championship game with the victory and remained in the national
title race. It almost certainly ended Alabama’s bid for the first a
historic third consecutive national championship.
”When you go back and look at my Hail Mary, there was really
nothing riding on it,” Flutie said. ”We had already accepted a
Cotton Bowl bid. Miami already had a bowl bid. We were really just
playing for fun.
”What made ours so big and what gave it so much attention was
it was Thanksgiving weekend. I think it was the most watched game
of the year and it was a time when we were the underdogs and
everybody loved to hate Miami at that time. All those factors went
into how big a deal was made out of that one.”
This Iron Bowl was the second-most watched game on CBS this
season, behind Alabama-Texas A&M.
The Tigers had beaten Georgia on a deflected Hail Mary two weeks
before the Iron Bowl. Davis, a cornerback and return man, then
trumped Ricardo Louis’s catch in one of the biggest Auburn-Alabama
He was already one of the Tigers’ top defenders and the leading
tackler. Davis had also scored on an 85-yard punt return against
Nice highlights, to be sure. But nothing compared to what was to
Davis, who was not made available for interviews this week,
posted on Twitter Monday that he received a standing ovation in his
geology class. He’d better get used to the extra attention.
Flutie said people still bring up Hail Flutie ”well over once a
day” on average. It’s a frequent icebreaker for people when they
first meet him, and he tries to be gracious about it.
His advice to Davis: Just go with it.
”Don’t let it become routine,” Flutie said. ”Go ahead and
enjoy it. What the heck. This is the way I view it is, there’s a
lot of guys that have had tremendous careers and within a couple of
years after they’re done they’re forgotten about. At least you’re
going to have that moment that people will remember.
”I won a Heisman and they still remember the Hail Mary over the
Flutie said he called Davis’ return while watching the Iron Bowl
on TV. He routinely saw field goal attempts returned in the CFL
because the rules give the offense a point if a miss isn’t run out
of the end zone
So when officials restored one second to the clock after a T.J.
Yeldon run set up Alabama’s 57-yard try, Flutie had an idea of what
”As soon as they put one second back on the clock, I turned to
my wife and I said, `They’re going to try a really long field goal
and this guy’s going to return it for a touchdown,” Flutie
Still, there was nothing routine about Davis’ effort. It was
only the fourth time a 100-plus yard return has happened in
college, according to NCAA records.
It also happened in a rivalry where fans remember certain plays
In the 1972 Iron Bowl, a one-loss Auburn team beat a previously
undefeated Alabama team 17-16 when Bill Newton blocked two punts in
the final minutes and David Langner returned both for
Langner still hears about it and said the name recognition
helped him land jobs during his career. He lives in Tuscaloosa and
coincidentally attended the same Birmingham high school as
”Forty years later, it’s every day,” Langner said. ”Everybody
remembers the name. They’re like, `I’ve heard that name.’ It’s just
been part of my life since that day it happened, and it will be for
Just on an even grander scale.
Langner figures that will be ”the most remembered game in the
history of Auburn.”