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Finke looks to contribute in variety of ways

| Friday, November 22, 2019

Chris Finke is somewhat of an anomaly. The 5-foot-9 graduate student out of Dayton, Ohio, has slowly risen in the ranks of Notre Dame football, proving an indispensable member of the team. Initially a walk on, Finke contributed on the scout team throughout his freshman year before earning a scholarship during fall camp of his sophomore season.

Finke backed up the scholarship offer with a breakout sophomore season, recording 122 yards over 10 games and a touchdown against Syracuse and Virginia Tech. His progression only continued into his junior season, playing in all 13 games and starting in the team’s 21-17 win over LSU in the Citrus Bowl.

Just as he’s continued to build on each season, Finke is always looking to find new ways to be an asset on the field, joining special teams as a key punt returner.

Finke kicked off his senior year in memorable fashion, rising to snatch a 43-yard pass under the bright lights from then-quarterback Brandon Wimbush and put the Irish up 14-0. He continued to come up clutch in key moments, making 49 catches throughout the season for a total of 571 yards. He showed a diverse range of skills, taking 19 punt returns for Notre Dame’s special teams.

“It’s been a long journey. Definitely not something I imagined happening when I came here as a walk on,” Finke said. “But you know, as time progresses, you set new goals and not really satisfied with anything, trying not to get complacent.”

Michelle Mehelas | The Observer
Irish graduate student slot receiver Chris Finke catches and runs during Notre Dame’s 24-17 win over USC on Nov. 24 to finish the 2018 regular season undefeated.

Despite four years of experiences and memories, Finke wasn’t ready to hang up the helmet quite yet. Now, two games into his fifth year in the program Finke has no regrets about that decision.

“There really wasn’t a whole lot that went into that,” he said. “Just as soon as I found out that they would have me back I was all for it.”

With his changing responsibilities, so too has his leadership evolved.

“My role on this team is you know, as a captain to lead the guys to lead by example and vocally and then do what I’m asked on the field and make plays and know my job and, and help our offense and special teams,” Finke said.

Finke has also had to step into new positions following collarbone injuries to juniors Cole Kmet and Michael Young. Despite the shuffling around and having to adjust to new lineups, Finke remains optimistic of what lies ahead and considers himself a student of the game.

“I’ve had to play some positions at receiver that I don’t normally play and I’m moving out of the slot,” he said. “So it’s definitely something I’m learning and some I’m trying to get more experience at and find the nuance.”

Finke’s gradual emergence in the program has provided him a unique perspective on the rise of some of the new faces on the team including sophomore wide receiver Lawrence Keys III and senior wide receiver Javon McKinley.

“I love it. I mean, seeing those guys play well and then score touchdowns and make quick plays for us,” Finke said. “You know, it means a lot of good things for a team and just puts a smile on my face and all the other guys as well.”

His dedication and leadership have not gone unnoticed, earning him the honor of being named one of seven captains following preseason camp. And with that title comes the expectation of mentorship.

“They know, if they ever need anything, you know, they come to me and I try to be as an older guy, and as a leader in the room, someone who can help them out,” he said. “But I’m not one that’s going to take credit for anything that they’ve done.”

With arguably the biggest matchup of his career — certainly the biggest road matchup of his career — around the corner in Georgia, Finke is using the 2017 one-point loss to the Bulldogs to fuel his preparation.

“We had it in our minds, it didn’t turn out the way that we wanted last time we played them, but at the same time, every year is a new year, every week’s a new week,” Finke said “And no matter who we’re playing, whether it’s Louisville, New Mexico or Georgia, doesn’t really matter if we’ve played it before. It’s just the goal every week is the same — to win.”

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