Some players take years to find their niche, playing a variety of positions on offense and defense before finding their calling -- be it as a quarterback, receiver, tackle or defensive back.
Jay Finley is not one of those players.
Jay Finley was born to be a running back.
"My dad played semi-pro football," he recalls. "When I was real young, I remember I carried his helmet off the field and put it on. He said ever since then, football's been in my blood."
And not just football, but running the football. From day one of Pee Wee Football, Finley found his home in the backfield.
"I wasn't the first one on the field, but I caught everyone," he says. "They were running laps, but I caught 'em, passed 'em up, and beat everyone to the finish. They put me at running back, and I've been there ever since."
Finley first made a name for himself at Corsicana [Texas] High School, just an hour from Waco, where he helped lead the Tigers to the playoffs as a junior and again as a senior, rushing for a total of more than 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was named the nation's 49th-best running back by Rivals.com and considered Oklahoma State and Utah before signing with the Bears.
"Baylor was close to home," he explains. "My grandmother lives in Corsicana, and most of my family is from Texas."
After redshirting his first year on campus, Finley was the Bears' second-leading rusher as a freshman in 2007 and led Baylor in rushing each of the last three seasons, even while battling an ankle injury in 2009. As this issue went to press, Finley was one good game away from cracking the top 10 all-time at Baylor in career rushing yardage, joining such names as Walter Abercrombie, Alfred Anderson and Dennis Gentry - all NFL veterans.
An honorable mention All-Big 12 selection by the league's coaches and the Associated Press, Finley has provided the ground complement to Griffin's passing, enjoying a breakout season as a fifth-year senior.
Finley has stamped his name all over the Baylor record books this season. First, he set the Baylor single-game record with 250 yards rushing during this year's Homecoming game against Kansas State. With 1,155 yards rushing this year, he needs only 33 more yards to break the single-season mark, and his 11 rushing touchdowns this season are the most by a BU running back since 1974. He's moved into third place among Baylor's all-time career leaders with 2,597 yards on the ground and fifth all-time with 21 career rushing touchdowns.
Pro football is a possibility for the 5-foot-11, 205-pound back, but if that doesn't pan out, Finley already has a second career in mind. A fifth-year senior athletically, Finley graduated in May with a degree in education and plans to one day teach math.
"I want to be a professor, but if I don't do that, I'll probably teach elementary or middle school math," he says, adding that he likes math because "I'm pretty good at it, and it's always correct. If you do it right, you're always going to get the same answer."
Having earned his degree and as one of the veteran leaders on the team, Finley finally got to indulge a longtime wish this fall: getting back his old number, 23.
"My favorite running back as a kid was Barry Sanders, but I also had a friend whose favorite running back was Barry Sanders. He went to the coach before I did and asked for his number . The next number available was 23, and ever since then, I've been in love with the number 23, even though I only had it that one time.
"When I went to high school, I couldn't get 23. The only number they had was 32, so that's what I got. Then when I came to college, I wanted 23 again, but it was already taken, and the only number they had left was 32."
Finally this spring, Finley's longtime teammate Justin Fenty - who wore 23 the past three years - completed his eligibility, opening up the number for Finley.
Some great NFL running backs have worn No. 32 over the years: Jim Brown, Edgerrin James, Marcus Allen, the list goes on. But only one player among the top 50 in NFL career rushing yards, Garrison Hearst, ever wore No. 23 - and even Hearst wore it for just his first three seasons.
Perhaps that leaves an opening for Finley to make his mark in pro football. Or perhaps a few years from now, you'll find him somewhere else: at a local school, teaching math in classroom 23.