By Jesse Piper
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Nothing to lose. That was the motto for Kansas State redshirt freshman center B.J. Finney.
A walk-on who was paying his own way through school, Finney saw his spot on the scout squad not only as a way to help the first-team defense prepare for the rigors of a Big 12 schedule, but to put himself in a better position for the future. And that is exactly what he did.
"Being on the scout squad, I really did not have much to lose," said Finney. "So the way that I approached it was I was going to give my all every day, and I am going to make the defense work when they are going against me."
Finney would go on to win the 2010 Red Raider Award, which is given annually to the top contributor on the scout squad, and halfway through 2011 season, he has been in the starting lineup every week for the Wildcats.
Coming out of high school, Finney was lightly recruited by Division I schools, even though he was a dual-sport star for Andale High School. During his time at AHS, he was a four-year letterman in wrestling, while winning the Kansas Class 4A championship as a senior and finishing as runner-up as a junior, a skill that would be a huge benefit to him on the gridiron. He was also a stand-out lineman for the Indians, lettering three years and leading his team to the Class 4A state championship in 2007 and a runner-up finish in 2009. As a senior, he was named the Ark Valley/Chisholm Trail Offensive Most Valuable Player, an All-State pick by the Wichita Eagle and the Topeka Capital-Journal and a Kansas Shrine Bowl participant.
Still, only one scholarship offer came in and that did not pan out the way Finney and his family had hoped.
"I had an offer from Ohio University and that was kind of a crazy situation," said Finney. "I told them that I wanted to check out their campus before I made a commitment. We had it scheduled for the week after my high school team lost in the playoffs. But I got a call that Wednesday saying that they had run out of scholarships before I left on Friday."
So here he was, the best player on a top team in one of the premiere high school leagues in Kansas, without many post-high school options. He mulled over offers from smaller in-state school such as Washburn and Pittsburg State. He also considered taking the junior college route, with nearby schools Butler County Community College and Hutchinson Community College beating down his door.
But it was a visit from K-State defensive end coach Joe Bob Clements that made Finney's mind up for him. Although, he did not grow up a die-hard Wildcat fan, he followed the Wildcats and kept up with the program that he would eventually be a part of.
So when it came time to choose a school, Finney chose the Wildcats over walk-on offers from Kansas and Oklahoma State, and it did not take long for him to fall in love with the family atmosphere that a Bill Snyder-led program has become famous for.
"It was the first night of my visit, probably within three and a half hours of being on campus when they turned me loose with my hosts," said Finney. "We all went to the bowling alley and we were having a great time. Other players and the coaches just kind of meshed into one and that was a huge deal for me. I could not be happier here at K-State."
With that said, Finney knew that he was coming into a situation that no amount of work in high school could prepare him for. He understood that college football, especially at the Division I level, is more like a full-time job rather than an extra-curricular activity. Although he is the first to admit that he still is not used to the daily grind of being a Big 12 student-athlete, he sees life off the field as an everyday battle that he is more than willing to fight.
"As a high school athlete, you have time to go home and study," said Finney. "But here at K-State, you are putting in 60-plus hours a week just on football and on top of that, you have to study about 30 hours. There is really not enough time in the day to get everything done, so time-management is a huge thing."
Tough and hard-nosed, Finney climbed the depth chart throughout this past spring and summer and he now has cemented his spot in the starting rotation with traits that immediately jump out at the coaching staff, especially offensive line coach Charlie Dickey.
"He has been a really hard worker. He is really dependable and accountable and he has got some toughness to him," said Dickey. "With his wrestling background, I think that is an advantage. I like guys that are wrestlers. They have got a lot of toughness, so I think that is a big key for him."
As the season wears on, Finney looks to continue the rich tradition of former walk-ons going on to have great success during their time at K-State. So while the story of a kid from Kansas with virtually no big-time scholarship offers walking on and earning a starting spot is nothing new, he looks to add his name to a list of players that include the man who recruited him, Joe Bob Clements, and current NFL players, Jon McGraw and Super Bowl Champion Jordy Nelson.
With the Wildcats being the surprise of college football in 2011, Finney could not be more excited to represent the state he is from and the school that he is so proud to be a part of.
"As everyone around here says ‘We are K-State' and we hoist the banner high as a level of pride," he said. "We always want to do our best to do right by our university and being from Kansas, I have a lot of pride in representing K-State."