From the Montreal Gazette – Rookie Finley steps up under trying circumstances
TORONTO – Things can seem daunting, at the best of times, for Canadian Football League rookies – especially non-imports.
When defensive-ends Gabriel Knapton and Aaron Lavarias both sustained knee injuries early in Saturday’s game against the Toronto Argonauts, freshman Jeffrey Finley was forced into duty.
Finley, the Alouettes’ third-round (22nd overall) draft choice this year, played with a heavy heart – days after learning of the death of a university friend and roommate.
Finley, who played collegiately at the University of Guelph, lived on campus with Walter Lumsden. After their first year at Guelph, Lumsden sustained a broken neck after diving into a river and had been in a coma for three years until dying last week.
Finley learned of Lumsden’s death in the days leading up to the weekend game.
“He was such a genuine guy. He impacted so many people, considering I spent every day with him for a year, basically,” Finley revealed following the game. “It was just sad to see him pass away under those circumstances.”
Finley, 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, has played mostly on special teams this season – which was to be expected. But he was the next man up after Knapton and Lavarias sustained their injuries, and held his own, drawing kudos from head coach Tom Higgins and his teammates.
“He played his ass off,” said rush-end John Bowman.
“I know that guy played with a lot of heart,” added defensive-tackle Scott Paxson. “He’s ready to go. He’s been wanting to play. I know the coaching staff’s been trying to get him in there somehow. It sucks that this is the way, but that dude played like a man tonight. Hats off to him.”
Middle-linebacker Bear Woods said Finley played with passion against the Argos, while Higgins credited him with playing a sound game.
Finley, only 23, believes he simply proved to himself he can make it and play at the pro level. If there was any doubt, he turned the corner against Toronto.
“I did what I could and played to the best of my ability,” said Finley, a native of St. Catharines, Ont. “I think I showed I can play at this level, especially with my speed.
“Today made me feel like I can really play at this level and have an impact with this team.”
The Alouettes defeated the Toronto Argonauts 20-12 in Toronto on Saturday to move into a first place tie with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL East.