Before Michigan's football camp this summer none of the Wolverine coaches had heard of 2014 defensive lineman Kenneth Finley Jr. (Muskegon, Mich./Muskegon). But after the first day of camp, a few coaches noticed him. By the second day, Finley had impressed in one-on-ones. And on the third day, when the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Finley clocked 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash, every coach wanted to shake his hand.
"Before I went, I worked on my 40 and I blew them away," Finley said. "Everyone was looking at me like, 'How did he run a 4.8? He plays defensive tackle.' But I worked hard at it."
Finley knew he'd have to impress at camp this summer to grab Michigan's attention. It was really the only camp he attended all summer, but he was happy with his performance and the Michigan coaches are still in the picture.
"I just came in there with a clear mind," Finley said. "I knew what I had to do. And I did what I love to do, just play the game. And I played my position well. And they liked me."
The Michigan coaching staff, though it hasn't offered, has kept tabs on Finley. Iowa and Florida -- which Finley has been a fan of since he was a kid -- as well as some smaller in-state and Ohio schools have also begun inquiring about the speedy lineman to Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield.
Fairfield said the common trend among all the college coaches is that they want to know if Finley is as quick in person as he looks on film and paper. And the answer, simply, is yes.
"He's a special kid," Fairfield said. "He has a motor. He just does some things that you can’t believe. He has brute strength. He's a great run stopper and he just has this other gear."
Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery attended Finley's first game of the season. It was the Big Red’s first win of the season, and since, Finley has led the team to five consecutive wins, averaging eight tackles a game. With Detroit Cass Tech's recent loss to Orchard Lake St. Mary's (which Muskegon beat in its season opener, 21-14), Muskegon has taken the top ranking in the state.
Finley knows that with his limited exposure this summer he'll want to extend his team's season as long as possible, hopefully ending with a state championship.
"I'm always focusing on getting my job, knowing that will help the team," Finley said. "I work hard. That's it really."
And he's also working hard in the classroom. Finley would like to go into business and has been impressed by both Michigan and Florida's business schools.
"It's about football, but it's mostly about the education," Finley said. "You live by that. You need to look at the school and know that's a good fit for you. You can't just look at a football program."