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Finney Provides Leadership for K-State Football
Sep 7, 2013; Manhattan, KS, USA; Kansas State Wildcats offensive center BJ Finney (66) waits to snap the ball during first-half action against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Photo Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
August 23, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Ask anyone on the Wildcat football squad about B.J. Finney, and they'll each give you a similar answer.
"B.J., he's the 45-year-old man, the dad; you go to him for advice," laughed senior defensive end Ryan Mueller.
Teammates say Finney is the wise one; their go-to guy. He's a guy who will set you straight on the field, but at the end of the day, there's no doubt he cares. He's a hard worker. He's dedicated. He's a leader.
And the list goes on and on.
"B.J. has been a leader ever since I got here," said junior offensive lineman Cody Whitehair. "He helped me out with my transition from guard to tackle; B.J. has just been a great leader for all of us."
That being said, it's no surprise that Finney was voted by his teammates as a captain for the third-straight season. Accepting the role this year makes Finney the Wildcats' first ever offensive lineman to hold the position three consecutive years, and he becomes only the fifth player in K-State football history to do so.
"I don't know what my teammates see in me, but they keep voting me captain so I feel like I'll keep representing them in the way that they want to be represented and the way that they tell me they do," said Finney with a laugh. "It's a huge honor and a huge blessing for them to keep electing me captain, and I just don't know what to say past that."
Despite his humble attitude, when one looks at Finney today - a two-time All-Big 12 First Team honoree and a three-time Rimington Award candidate - it's no surprise he's continued his role as a team leader. However, rewind a few years, and that just wasn't the case.
Five years ago, when Finney spent his first year at K-State on the sidelines as a redshirt after walking on to the program, success wasn't a guarantee.
"My redshirt season, I hated it," explained Finney on that first season at K-State. "I didn't want to be on the sideline. I wanted to be on the field, and whatever I had to do to contribute to the team beyond the field, that's what I was going to do. Whether that meant playing guard or tackle or being moved to center from tackle, it didn't matter. If I had to be the water boy to help the team succeed, I would have done it."
Just being on the team wasn't good enough for Finney. He wanted to contribute. So by the time his redshirt freshman season rolled around, he had worked hard enough to earn a spot in the starting lineup and, by the end of the season, he had earned himself a spot on both the 2011 Freshman All-American First Team and Freshman All-Big 12 First Team.
He started his season at right guard then switched to center following one game - and he's been there ever since.
In his time at K-State, Finney has contributed to K-State's four consecutive winning seasons, including a Big 12 Championship in 2012 and the Wildcats' first bowl victory in more than a decade last year. He blocked for Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein and has been named to various award watch lists, including the Burlsworth Trophy, Outland Trophy, Lombardi Award and Rimington Trophy.
In his career, he has started 39 games, and, if history repeats itself, the three-time team captain is on track to finish his Wildcat career with more than 50 starts.
His journey through the K-State football program really is impressive, however he said he couldn't have done it without his hard work ethic - a character trait he credits to his dad.
Nearly 10 years ago, on October 18, 2004, Finney's father, J Finney, passed away after suffering a heart attack. It was a pivotal moment in the young athlete's life.
B.J. could have quit football. He could have given up.
His dad was his coach, his best friend, and it was hard to see a future in sports without him.
"I almost didn't go out (for football) the season following his passing just because he wasn't around. It was really hard," Finney explained. "When I was back on the field, I'd get a hard hit or I'd make a good play, and I'd look up to see him and my uncle, and he wouldn't be there. I'd just get home and cry. I'll be honest, I would cry. It sucked. It hurts, but it's something you learn to live with. I always play for him."
Everything B.J. Finney knew about football came from his dad. J coached all of B.J.'s friends in Andale, Kansas, growing up and taught them the importance of good character through the sport.
"Growing up with my dad, he could relate to us young guys," explained Finney about his dad. "He taught us life lessons in third, fourth, fifth and sixth grade through the game of football, and it would stick with us. The discipline, the work ethic, the patience, all of it, he taught us through pee wee football. That's something truly remarkable in itself. He always told me, 'There's nothing that you can't do. If you want it, you can go out and get it, but you've got to he ready to put in the work because somebody else wants it too.'"
The lessons Finney learned from his father at a young age have stuck with him and continue to play a key role in his success at K-State. As Finney looks forward to another season with the Wildcats, his goal to be the best person and player that he can remains.
Regardless of the time that passes, Finney doesn't go one day without his father on his mind.
"I find him staring me in the face on a daily basis, I really do," explained Finney. "I made him a promise that if I was going to play football, and I was going to take it to the next level and play college ball somewhere. It was just one of those things that I wanted to make happen after he passed, and I knew I wanted to be at a major program to leave no doubt about what I could accomplish."
Not only did Finney keep his promise, but as he heads into his senior season at K-State, he has the opportunity to go down as one of the Wildcats' best offensive linemen in the history of the program - and that's something any father would be proud of.
"It would have been so much easier for me to go the other way and not be who I am today," Finney said, tears began to well in his eyes. He paused, fought back emotion and concluded, "But I know, at the end of the day, as long as I strive to be the best person that I can, I'm making my dad proud, and I know that he's still watching, he's still here. That's the way I try to live my life."