/seasons/2013/contrib/20131111tqsxjg

A Man Among Boys

More news about: Simpson

Just before kickoff on Saturday afternoon at Buxton Stadium, Simpson College junior football player Clay Finley takes a knee in the South end zone.

With his helmet off and his head down, he takes a moment to reflect.

He thinks about where he came from. He thinks about what he's been through. And he thinks about those who joined him along the way.

Finley isn't your typical college junior. At 24 years old, he had a lifetime's worth of experiences under his belt before ever stepping foot on campus.

Finley is a veteran of the United States Army.

. . . . .

Following a semester at Kirkwood Community College in the fall of 2007, Finley enlisted in the Army. As a Specialist for the 82nd Airborne Division, he spent 358 days in Afghanistan. He held a number of responsibilities overseas, including personal security detail, tower guard and serving as the lead gunman on convoys.

On more than one occasion, he found himself under heavy fire.

"There was one point where I was out of ammo, I was behind a building and there were bullets hitting the dirt right beside me," Finley said. "I had to [leave cover to] go and get more ammo. I looked up and said, 'Well God, if I die, I'll see you soon.'"

It's experiences like that – and another instance when he found himself within feet of a live mortar round – that help the 6-2, 205-pound defensive end stay cool under pressure.

"When things get really intense, I've been trained to keep calm," he said.

Opposing quarterbacks have been anything but calm when they see Finley coming. Through nine games, the Muscatine, Iowa native leads Simpson with 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He has helped the Storm to a 6-3 record and a second-place spot in the Iowa Conference.

Not bad for a guy who never thought about playing college football until his brother gave him the idea.

"I was talking to my brother [after I got out] and he asked if I had ever thought about playing football," Finley recalled. "I said I hadn't, but he said I should think about it."

With that, Finley decided to extend his career. He knew Division III was his best route, so he narrowed his options to Central, Coe and Simpson. In the end, location, a respected exercise science program and the coaching staff led him to Indianola.

"I really liked the coaches here, they had the academic program I was interested in and it was close to Des Moines," he said. "It was really the best fit for me."

As a veteran, Finley faced some challenges in transitioning from life as a soldier to life as a student. To ease the shift, he took advantage of the Hawley Academic Resource & Advising Center and made sure to surround himself with the right type of people.

Now, the physical education and exercise science major is a Capital One Academic All-District First Team honoree.

"If you need help, Simpson will help you succeed," Finley said.

Of all the support he received from faculty and staff, it was football that provided the best avenue for Finley make the switch from soldier to civilian.

"Football helped me the most in transitioning from the military back to school," he said. "I needed that to help me transition."

Looking back on his experiences in the Army, Finley applies the lessons he learned during his deployment to football and life in general.

"I learned a lot about teamwork and friendship," he said. "You can be in the worst place imaginable, but if you have really good people around you, it's not so bad. If you surround yourself with good people, you'll be that much more successful and life will be that much more enjoyable."

. . . . .

As pregame winds to a close and kickoff nears, Clay Finley – a veritable man among boys – makes his way to the end zone.

With his right knee on the turf, his weight supported by a red helmet bearing a gold "SC", and his chin tucked to his chest, Finley gives thanks.

"Some of my buddies are gone, so I thank God that I am where I am, and I thank God for the people around me. I think, hopefully I can play like God and my family would want me to."

After revering the stars and stripes he fought for, Finley buckles his chinstrap.

He is ready for battle.

Aug. 31: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Moravian at King's
Live stats Tickets
7:00 PM
Methodist at Campbell
7:00 PM
Alfred State at Coast Guard
Live stats
7:00 PM
Allegheny at Thiel
Live stats
7:00 PM
Stevenson at Frostburg State
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Wesley at Delaware Valley
7:00 PM
Mayville St. at Buena Vista
7:30 PM
Manchester at Trine
Video Live stats
8:00 PM
McMurry at Okla. Panhandle
8:00 PM
Millsaps at Belhaven
8:00 PM
Greenville at Millikin
Sep. 1: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Salisbury at Albright
7:00 PM
Mount Ida at Mass-Dartmouth
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Fitchburg State at Curry
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Johns Hopkins at Washington and Lee
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
FDU-Florham at TCNJ
7:00 PM
MIT at Becker
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Westfield State at Nichols
Video Live stats
7:30 PM
Anna Maria at WPI
Video Live stats
7:30 PM
Gettysburg at Bridgewater
Video Live stats
Sep. 2: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Grove City at Juniata
Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
Framingham State at Endicott
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Worcester State at Salve Regina
Live stats
12:00 PM
Maine Maritime at SUNY-Maritime
Live stats
12:00 PM
Norwich at Morrisville State
Live stats
12:00 PM
Bethany at Ursinus
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Brockport at Hobart
12:00 PM
Augustana at Cortland
12:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Buffalo State
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Carnegie Mellon at Washington U.
Video Live stats Live stats
12:30 PM
N.C. Wesleyan at Mount Union
Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Wilkes at Muhlenberg
1:00 PM
Kalamazoo at Oberlin
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Catholic at McDaniel
1:00 PM
Heidelberg at Olivet
Live stats
1:00 PM
Franklin and Marshall at Lebanon Valley
1:00 PM
Alma at St. Vincent
1:00 PM
Castleton at Plymouth State
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Lycoming at Susquehanna
1:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at John Carroll
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Alfred at Ithaca
1:00 PM
Misericordia at Merchant Marine
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Albion at Wabash
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Dickinson at Randolph-Macon
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Bluffton at Wooster
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Union at Husson
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Springfield at Western New England
1:00 PM
Wittenberg at Westminster (Pa.)
1:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Washington and Jefferson
1:00 PM
Ferrum at Emory and Henry
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Averett at Hampden-Sydney
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Berry at Maryville (Tenn.)
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Waynesburg at Muskingum
Live stats
1:00 PM
William Paterson at RPI
1:00 PM
Franklin at Thomas More
Live stats
1:00 PM
Greensboro at Apprentice
1:00 PM
Case Western Reserve at Chicago
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Kenyon at Sewanee
1:30 PM
Centre at Hanover
1:30 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Capital
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Baldwin Wallace at Defiance
Live stats
1:30 PM
Earlham at Wilmington
Live stats
2:00 PM
Birmingham-Southern at LaGrange
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
St. Norbert at UW-Stevens Point
2:00 PM
Carthage at Aurora
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Hope at Monmouth
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Guilford at Huntingdon
2:00 PM
UW-Stout at Simpson
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Nebraska Wesleyan
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Rockford at MacMurray
2:00 PM
Finlandia at Concordia (Wis.)
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
St. Scholastica at St. John's
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Dubuque at Bethel
2:00 PM
Westminster (Mo.) at Gustavus Adolphus
2:00 PM
Macalester at Carleton
2:00 PM
Grinnell at St. Olaf
2:00 PM
Hamline at Crown
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at Illinois Wesleyan
2:00 PM
Whitworth at Central
2:00 PM
Coe at UW-River Falls
2:00 PM
Loras at Elmhurst
2:00 PM
Concordia-Chicago at Ripon
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Presentation at Lawrence
Video
2:00 PM
George Fox at UW-Platteville
Live stats
2:00 PM
Lake Forest at Beloit
2:10 PM
UW-Eau Claire at St. Thomas
Live stats Audio
3:00 PM
Austin at Bacone
4:00 PM
Puget Sound at La Verne
5:00 PM
Western Connecticut at Hartwick
6:00 PM
Ohio Northern at Adrian
Live stats Audio
6:00 PM
North Park at Anderson
7:00 PM
Christopher Newport at Southern Virginia
Live stats
7:00 PM
Brevard at Davidson
7:00 PM
Gallaudet at Shenandoah
Live stats
7:00 PM
Otterbein at Ohio Wesleyan
7:00 PM
Marietta at Geneva
7:00 PM
Widener at Rowan
7:00 PM
St. Lawrence at Utica
7:00 PM
Southwestern at Denison
7:00 PM
Martin Luther at Minnesota-Morris
7:00 PM
Carroll at Lakeland
7:00 PM
Rose-Hulman at Illinois College
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Trinity Int'l at Wisconsin Lutheran
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Sul Ross State at Texas-Permian Basin
7:00 PM
Luther at UW-La Crosse
7:00 PM
Wayland Baptist at Louisiana College
7:00 PM
Knox at Eureka
Video Live stats
8:00 PM
Northwestern (Minn.) at Augsburg
8:00 PM
Iowa Wesleyan at Cornell
8:00 PM
Robert Morris-Chicago at North Central (Ill.)
Video Live stats Audio
8:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Benedictine
8:00 PM
Lyon at Hendrix
8:00 PM
Howard Payne at Southwestern Assemblies
10:00 PM
Trinity (Texas) at Redlands
10:00 PM
Rhodes at Willamette
Live stats
Maintenance in progress.