/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. 30: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
Alma at Baldwin Wallace
Live stats
7:00 PM
Frostburg State at Stevenson
Live stats
7:00 PM
University of New England at Coast Guard
Live stats
7:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Johns Hopkins
7:00 PM
Hamline at Buena Vista
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
7:00 PM
Trinity (Texas) at McMurry
7:30 PM
Manchester at Trine
7:37 PM
Rowan at Widener
8:00 PM
Millsaps at Belhaven
8:00 PM
UW-Platteville at East Texas Baptist
Live stats
Aug. 31: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Utica at St. Lawrence
7:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Wesley
Live stats
7:00 PM
WPI at Anna Maria
Live stats
7:00 PM
Western New England at Springfield
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Nichols at Westfield State
7:00 PM
Millikin at Hope
Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
TCNJ at FDU-Florham
7:00 PM
Becker at MIT
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Albright at Salisbury
Live stats
8:00 PM
St. Olaf at Crown
Sep. 1: All times Eastern
TBA
Brevard at Davidson
TBA
Southern Virginia at Christopher Newport
TBA
Augustana at Coe
TBA
Willamette at Simon Fraser
12:00 PM
Endicott at Framingham State
Live stats
12:00 PM
Morrisville State at Norwich
12:00 PM
Buffalo State at Bridgewater State
Live stats
12:00 PM
Ursinus at Bethany
12:00 PM
Salve Regina at Worcester State
Live stats
12:00 PM
Sewanee at Kenyon
12:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Thomas More at N.C. Wesleyan
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Merchant Marine at Misericordia
1:00 PM
Husson at Union
Live stats
1:00 PM
Apprentice at Greensboro
1:00 PM
RPI at Allegheny
1:00 PM
Wabash at Hiram
1:00 PM
Cortland at Fitchburg State
Live stats
1:00 PM
King's at Moravian
Live stats
1:00 PM
Westminster (Pa.) at Wittenberg
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Dickinson
1:00 PM
Hobart at Brockport
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Catholic
1:00 PM
Huntingdon at Guilford
Live stats
1:00 PM
Gallaudet at Alvernia
1:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Alfred State
Live stats
1:00 PM
Shenandoah at Methodist
Live stats
1:00 PM
Thiel at Alfred
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Ferrum
Audio
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Lycoming
1:00 PM
Washington and Jefferson at St. John Fisher
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Kalamazoo
1:00 PM
Hartwick at Wilkes
1:00 PM
St. Vincent at Ithaca
1:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Dean at Curry
Live stats
1:00 PM
Plymouth State at Castleton
Live stats
1:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at Carthage
1:00 PM
Grinnell at Lawrence
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
Juniata at Grove City
1:30 PM
Wooster at Bluffton
1:30 PM
Bridgewater at Gettysburg
1:30 PM
Albion at Defiance
Live stats
2:00 PM
Wilmington at Earlham
Live stats
2:00 PM
John Carroll at UW-Stevens Point
2:00 PM
Eureka at Knox
2:00 PM
Wisconsin Lutheran at Lake Forest
Live stats
2:00 PM
Ripon at Augsburg
2:00 PM
Aurora at St. Norbert
2:00 PM
Nebraska Wesleyan at Concordia-Moorhead
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at Dubuque
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at Martin Luther
2:00 PM
MacMurray at Rockford
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Luther
2:00 PM
Monmouth at Wheaton (Ill.)
2:00 PM
Minnesota-Morris at UW-River Falls
2:00 PM
Lakeland at Carroll
Live stats
2:00 PM
UW-Stout at St. John's
2:00 PM
UW-Eau Claire at Loras
Audio
2:00 PM
Bethel at Simpson
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Beloit at Concordia-Chicago
2:00 PM
Bacone at Austin
2:10 PM
Trinity Int'l at St. Thomas
3:00 PM
Puget Sound at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Live stats
4:00 PM
La Verne at Whitworth
6:00 PM
Adrian at Ohio Northern
Live stats Audio
6:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Berry
Live stats
6:00 PM
Capital at Mount St. Joseph
6:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Averett
Live stats
6:00 PM
Benedictine at Franklin
6:00 PM
Central at Northwestern (Minn.)
7:00 PM
Geneva at Marietta
7:00 PM
Rochester at Case Western Reserve
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Hanover at Centre
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Rose-Hulman at Mount Union
Live stats
7:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Otterbein
7:00 PM
Olivet at Heidelberg
7:00 PM
Illinois College at Rhodes
7:00 PM
Chicago at Washington U.
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Anderson at North Park
8:00 PM
Lyon at Hendrix
8:00 PM
Greenville at Wartburg
8:00 PM
Cornell at Iowa Wesleyan
8:00 PM
Denison at Southwestern
8:00 PM
Carleton at Macalester
10:00 PM
Pacific at Chapman
Live stats
10:00 PM
George Fox at Redlands
10:00 PM
Sul Ross State at Arizona Christian
Dec. 9: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 43, at UW-Oshkosh 40
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, Brockport 0
Box Score Recap Photos
Dec. 15: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 12, at Mary Hardin-Baylor 0
@ Salem, Va.
Video Box Score Recap Photos