Football Friday: Catching up with B.J. Finney
The four-year starter and three-year captain for K-State was signed as a free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers in early May, and he has since been spending his days enjoying his time as a rookie in a new city.
"The biggest adjustment is living in an entirely different part of the country and not having my family around," said Finney, who, as a native of Andale, Kansas, was never far from home while at K-State. "But in terms of the franchise and the organization, it's very, very similar to K-State. They expect you to work hard, the responsibility is on the player and it's up to that person to do the right thing or not do the right thing, and that's the way it is at K-State too. Coach (Bill Snyder) did a great job of putting the responsibility on the player. Coach (Mike) Tomlin is like a modern-day Bill Snyder in some aspects; he lays out all the tools for you to be successful, but it's up to you to pick them up and use them."
Working hard for success is a mindset Finney is familiar with. He quickly learned how to use Snyder's tools for success while at K-State, and he used them well.
Finney began his Wildcat career as a walk-on and redshirted his first year with the team. In that redshirt year, he proved he belonged and went on to start 52 consecutive games - every game of his career. He was a four-time All-Big 12 selection - one of just three players in K-State history to earn four-straight conference honors - and also picked up an All-America designation in 2014.
He worked his way from the bottom to the top of the collegiate ranks, and his current situation - going undrafted and signing as a free agent with the Steelers - is similar and will take just as much work to make it in the NFL.
"It goes along the lines of being battle tested and having a mentally-tough aspect to your game," said Finney on what he has taken from his time at K-State and applied to the next level. "Even though things might not be going your way, you just have to keep playing, and you have to take it upon yourself to be better. It's one of the things they look at here; and was one of the major things at K-State."
But this isn't just Finney's story.
Behind every great man, there stands a great woman, they say.
Earlier this spring, Finney dropped to one knee in front of Kansas State's Anderson Hall and proposed to former Wildcat rower Amanda Weishaar.
"I don't know if I could fully describe it," said Finney. "She's been everything to me. She brings different views to situations and has being there to calm me down at the end of the day. She has been a huge, huge game changer throughout this experience in helping me be successful."
Finney and Weishaar met during their time as student-athletes at K-State. Weishaar laughs and said she first had eyes for Finney when he kindly held a door for her during their early years as Wildcats, but it wasn't until later that they became a couple.
Like Finney with the football team, Weishaar had a successful Wildcat career with K-State rowing. In her years with the program (2007-12), she was a two-time captain, the team's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) representative and raced with the team's 1st Varsity 8 boat for three-consecutive seasons. She was named to the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll every semester with the Cats, earned the Conference USA Commissioner's Academic Medal in 2011 and also helped lead K-State to four-consecutive Sunflower Showdown victories over the Kansas Jayhawks.
Both have a keen understanding of what it takes to compete and thrive at a high level, and that common mindset has only helped them grow as a couple.
"I think a lot of people underestimate the behind-the-scenes aspect of being a student-athlete," explained Weishaar. "They know you have practice and weights, but the scheduling in classes and homework and extra activities, it's a lot. We have the understanding of what a full day really is, going from 5 a.m. to 10 at night, and repeating that the next day. We can relate to the mental aspect of it, how it can wear on you and how your performance that day can affect your whole mood. The dynamic with teammates, things like that, having that understanding has been really helpful."
This past month, Finney has been living in a hotel with his rookie teammates in Pittsburgh while Weishaar has been living in Topeka. The long distance hasn't been the easiest thing for the duo - especially with a wedding to plan - but they've made it work.
Finney calls Weishaar every morning on his walk to his first workouts of the day. With the time difference, it's a 5 a.m., wakeup call for Weishaar, but she doesn't mind.
They've gone to different movie theaters at the same time on the same day to see the same movie, and then they call each other afterwards to discuss it. Weishaar even took a road trip up to Pittsburgh with Finney's family over Memorial Day weekend to visit their new favorite Steeler.
"She understands the amount of work it takes to be successful and to be great," said Finney. "She understands the amount of work you have to put in. We're not texting each other constantly; we can't. We know we have to do our own thing right now, but when we get to spend time together talking, it's really special."
Along with practices, Finney has participated in numerous activities with the Steelers in his first month with the team. From Pittsburgh Pirates games to helping out in the community (the Steelers recently interviewed Finney about volunteering at the Mel Blount Youth Home; you can check out that interview by clicking here), there is much to keep him busy.
"I'm doing really well and the days are going quick," he said. "I'm having a lot of fun with the older guys and meeting the new guys; it's just a lot of fun right now."
Though the distance can be tough and the path getting there wasn't the easiest, the couple is thankful for Finney's opportunity with the Steelers.
With an NFL schedule to now plan around, Finney and Weishaar will be getting married in late February.
And, fittingly, they are planning to have their wedding in Manhattan - a town they both hold dear.
"K-State was already special to me before I met B.J., but now it's just become an extension of our family," said Weishaar. "We've met so many of our close, close friends, people I consider my sisters, people he considers his brothers, mentors that we really, really look up to there. It's really special to us."
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