Silencing the doubters

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 25, 2016

0524-spt-Justin-FinleyOpp senior Justin Finley only played two years of football and just one of those were spent on the offensive line, but that was enough to receive a full-ride scholarship to play football at Pearl River Community College in Mississippi.

“It wasn’t something that I really expected when I first started,” Finley said of getting a scholarship to play football in college. “It’s something we all dream about, but it just wasn’t something I thought about much when I started playing football.”

Finley started playing football his junior season at Opp, but at the time he was on the defensive line.

“I really didn’t know much about football when I started,” Finley said. “With coaches like Coach (Brent) Hill and Coach (Mike) Dubose, I was able to pick up, and it started to all click at the end of the season.”

After the season was over, Finley said that Hill approached him about playing on the offensive line.

“Coach Hill told me that switching to offensive line was where I was needed and that it would be a position that would suit me in college,” Finley said. “I started working out a lot during the summer just to become the best that I could be. I still wasn’t thinking about getting a college scholarship at this point, I just wanted to get better for my team and whip anybody the opposing team would put in front of me.”

With Finley’s hulking frame, he has the size to be a SEC lineman.

“I was kind of upset that I didn’t get any offers from bigger schools at first, but Coach Hill explained to me that with just one year of exposure not of lot of schools would even know who I am,” Finley said. “Now, after visiting the school, it’s a much bigger place than I thought it was going to be. I know I have the potential to play in the SEC, but now I just have to keep working on getting better and getting noticed by bigger schools along the way. There have been a lot of people who didn’t think I could get this kind of offer just after one year of playing on the offensive line, but I proved them wrong. Now, they may not think I can do this, but I will continue to prove them wrong.”

Finley’s rapid ascent from non-player to college recruit is something that he credits to himself and his coaches.

“I’m the one out there putting in the work, but they are they ones that have gotten me the exposure,” Finley said. “I couldn’t have done it without them. I didn’t know anything about blocking until Coach (Marcus) Taylor taught me. He is a great coach and he quickly helped me understand all the aspects of the blocking.”

Finley said he plans on staying at Pearl River for two years before transferring to pursue a degree in Forestry or something similar.

“I think I want to be a game warden or maybe an environmental engineer,” Finley said. “Maybe in two years I will transfer to somewhere like Auburn or Florida.”

Finley said that he hopes to continue to play football after transferring.