/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.

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 50, Massachusetts Maritime 7
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Muhlenberg 56, at Juniata 40
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at Dean 25, Becker 10
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Salisbury 27, at TCNJ 7
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MIT 38, at Catholic 21
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Merchant Marine 56, at Maine Maritime 31
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at Hobart 34, Endicott 17
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at Morrisville State 44, Nichols 22
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at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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at Albright 9, Widener 7
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Christopher Newport 16, at Montclair State 8
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at Westminster (Pa.) 41, Bethany 14
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Middlebury 41, at Bowdoin 14
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Williams 24, at Colby 7
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Amherst 36, at Hamilton 6
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Ursinus 35, at Moravian 17
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Trinity (Conn.) 51, at Bates 0
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at LaGrange 38, Brevard 28
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Geneva 33, at Thiel 24
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at Plymouth State 37, Mass-Dartmouth 7
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Kean 28, at Southern Virginia 14
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Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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Union 17, at Curry 14
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at Carnegie Mellon 37, Thomas More 17
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Lycoming 44, at King's 41
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at Western New England 21, Husson 14
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Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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at DePauw 51, Wooster 24
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at Ohio Wesleyan 37, Allegheny 21
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at Misericordia 43, Wilkes 14
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at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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at N.C. Wesleyan 35, Maryville (Tenn.) 25
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Huntingdon 31, at Ferrum 28
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at McDaniel 27, Gettysburg 20
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at Buffalo State 33, RPI 21
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Franklin and Marshall 27, at Susquehanna 24
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at Denison 45, Oberlin 17
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 10, Westminster (Mo.) 7
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at Eureka 44, Crown 20
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at Lebanon Valley 24, FDU-Florham 14
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at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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at Ohio Northern 35, Otterbein 7
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at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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at Rose-Hulman 37, Defiance 14
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at Marietta 49, Muskingum 25
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Franklin 59, at Bluffton 30
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at Hanover 64, Anderson 21
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Mount St. Joseph 31, at Manchester 14
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Worcester State 34, at Westfield State 10
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Coast Guard 13, at Norwich 9
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at Fitchburg State 31, Bridgewater State 29
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Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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at Millsaps 17, Sewanee 13
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at Rhodes 35, Birmingham-Southern 9
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at Hendrix 36, Austin 24
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at Martin Luther 34, Greenville 20
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at Trinity (Texas) 41, Chapman 35
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at Loras 73, Buena Vista 34
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at Wartburg 30, Washington U. 20
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at Gustavus Adolphus 51, Hamline 7
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Augsburg 48, at Carleton 28
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at Bethel 64, St. Olaf 7
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at Luther 21, Dubuque 17
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at Central 52, Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Simpson 38, at Coe 33
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Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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St. Norbert 66, at Grinnell 13
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at Knox 13, Ripon 6
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at MacMurray 32, Iowa Wesleyan 14
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Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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Southwestern 37, at Louisiana College 34
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Monmouth 26, at Macalester 0
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at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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at Springfield 42, WPI 10
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at Cornell 55, Beloit 36
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at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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at Hartwick 24, St. John Fisher 21
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at UW-La Crosse 41, Carroll 6
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at St. Scholastica 37, Minnesota-Morris 3
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at George Fox 44, UW-Eau Claire 0
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at Western Connecticut 37, Salve Regina 23
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at UW-Stevens Point 41, Adrian 28
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at Wesleyan 24, Tufts 17
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at Averett 35, Methodist 6
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at Berry 28, Centre 14
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at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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at Grove City 24, St. Vincent 14
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at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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Carthage 55, at Augustana 14
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Chicago 28, at Illinois College 7
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at Sul Ross State 35, McMurry 7
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at Wilmington 37, Capital 30
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Lake Forest 42, at Lawrence 26
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at East Texas Baptist 79, Belhaven 40
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Arizona Christian 56, at Whittier 38
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Sep. 23: All times Eastern
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at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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Final
at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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Final
at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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