Remembering pair-adise

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:04 AM ET

From the time his Hail Mary clinched a Heisman Trophy until the moment he drop-kicked his way into the NFL record book, Doug Flutie's ability to amaze made him one of the most entertaining athletes of an era.

But ask the diminutive quarterback where his 20-year pro tour really began and the 43-year-old Boston College icon points to his four years in Calgary.

"What really got my career going were the days in Calgary," said Flutie, who spent time in the USFL, NFL and with the B.C. Lions before signing with Larry Ryckman's Stamps in 1992.

"That's where I got my confidence and my swagger, if I have one. To know I'm out on the field in control and that I belong and can dominate throwing the ball as we did with guys like Derrick Crawford, Peewee (Smith), Sponge (Dave Sapunjis) and Allen Pitts ... I had more fun playing football in the CFL than all the other years combined, no doubt about it."

A big (6-ft. 4-in.) part of his success here stemmed from the instant bond he formed with Pitts, who combined with Flutie to rewrite the CFL record book.

"I remember he arrived in '92," Pitts recalled yesterday, "and, after the first practice, I kind of sidled up to him and just kind of whispered I'd like to catch at least 100 and I'm willing to work hard at it.

"You did have a feeling when you ran a pattern, Doug would know what adjustment to make and he'd throw it and it would work out."

Hooking up with one another for the first time in almost a decade yesterday via a media conference call that trotted the pair out as Calgary's nominee for the CFL's greatest tandem contest, the two who paced Calgary to a 64-14 record in the early '90s were still so in sync they finished one another's glory day stories.

"When you needed to make a crucial play, you always went to Al," said Flutie, who hooked up with Pitts 307 times, including 42 majors. "He was so big, all he needed was body position and you trusted he'd get it. In the final two minutes of a big game against Edmonton, I called the same route four plays in a row and made four straight completions with Al."

Added the quiet slotback without pause: "The '92 West final."

With Flutie two weeks away from his broadcasting debut with ABC and Pitts starting his own general contracting outfit, the two sounded genuinely happy to hear one another's voices yesterday.

"I've never been in a situation where a single person dominated at receiver in a game like Allen could," said Flutie, who won three of his six CFL MVP awards in Cowtown. "We'd walk that ball down the field. High and outside or low and inside, he'd reach out and grab it. He made it very easy to throw for 6,000 yards a season. The crime of it was we didn't play more years together."

Pitts agreed, pointing out another regret.

"We had the most dominant team in the league for four years and got one championship out of it -- that was disappointing," said Pitts, who owns the record for yards receiving with 2,036 in 1994, the year Flutie set a CFL standard with 48 touchdowns, 21 to Pitts.

With fan voting now open on CFL.ca to determine the greatest tandem, only Flutie's brother Darren (and longtime teammate Danny McManus) can compete with the brilliance of Flutie/Pitts.

"Al and I were talking about coming out of retirement," laughed Flutie, confirming Argos injuries and his relationship with Pinball Clemons had him contemplating a CFL return last month.

"I don't think we'd be able to dominate like we did. I think we'd be on the extra-point team."

They'd go for two every time and still likely make it.


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