Jermichael Finley carries himself with a swagger; he’s been the “big man on campus” ever since high school.
Before committing to the University of Texas to play tight end, Finley was offered a dual scholarship by the University of Arizona, which would have allowed him to play both basketball and football at the D1 level. But as a freshman at Texas, Finley, then just 205 pounds, redshirted and learned the tight end position behind David Thomas, who is now a backup tight end for the New Orleans Saints.
But when Thomas graduated, an opportunity presented itself for the redshirt freshman Finley. In 2006, Finley caught 31 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns–all three totals set new school records for a freshman tight end.
As a third-year sophomore, Finley improved upon his individual numbers, racking up 45 catches for 575 yards. The Longhorns went 20-6 in Finley’s two years in Austin before the talented tight end decided to declare for the 2008 NFL Draft.
The Green Bay Packers snagged Finley with the No. 91 overall pick, throwing a 21-year-old Finley into a close-knit locker room that was looking to rally around quarterback Aaron Rodgers in his first season as the starter.
But the confident, occasionally outspoken rookie was in for a rude awakening, as he barely touched the field. Incumbent starter Donald Lee was coming off the best season of his career, in which he caught 48 passes for 575 yards and six touchdowns; he remained the starter during Finley’s rookie year.
But in Week 9 in Tennessee, Rodgers called Finley’s number. Facing a fourth-and-one in the first quarter against the then-undefeated Titans, Rodgers went to Finley on a back-shoulder throw.
The two were not on the same page, the pass was incomplete, and the Titans took over on downs. Finley was asked about the play after the game.
“I think he should have led me a little more, well a lot more,” Finley said. “Really, he didn’t throw it good at all, to be honest. He knows my game, coaches know my game. I’m more like a run and jump (receiver). I’m really not no back shoulder or whatever he had going on back there. They just have to know what kind of player I am and use me in that aspect of the game.”