The Sooner the better: Joe Jon Finley returns to alma mater
April 18, 2012 at 11 p.m.
Updated April 18, 2012 at 11:19 p.m.
Joe Jon Finley might have been having flashbacks on the sideline at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on a windy Saturday afternoon watching tight end Taylor McNamara catch three passes during the Sooners' spring football game.
Finley caught 62 passes for 775 yards and 10 touchdowns during a four-year Oklahoma career.
Finley played professionally for four seasons before returning to Norman last month as an offensive quality control assistant.
"I was just kind of ready to get in one spot and live a regular life and not live out of my suitcase all of the time," Finley said. "I just wanted to come back to OU and help out where I came from."
Finley's decision to pursue a coaching came naturally to someone who has been around football his entire life.
He was a ball boy when his father, Mickey, was the head coach at Cuero, and he played for his father at Arlington High.
Joe Jon's older brother, Clint, played at Cuero, was an assistant under Mickey Finley at Memorial and is the head coach at Los Fresnos.
Joe Jon worked with Clint last season after being released by the Detroit Lions, but followed the suggestion of his father, who retired as the head coach at Victoria East last season, and jumped at the opportunity to join head coach Bob Stoops' staff.
"I didn't really know what I wanted to do for sure, but I knew that I had an opportunity to get into college and that's pretty rare at a place like Oklahoma," Finley said. "I wanted to come try this first. I can always go back and coach high school football. I just wanted to give this a shot."
Finley's duties include breaking down video and practice preparation. NCAA rules prohibit support staff from being on the field during the season, so he's hoping to become a graduate assistant in the fall and assist co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel with the tight ends and offensive line.
"Joe Jon was a great player right here and played at the next level," Heupel said. "He did those things because he was talented. But he did all the off-the-field stuff too. He was awesome. A great leader, work ethic, never misses a day."
Finley views his time in the NFL as a coaching primer. He spent two years on the practice squad of the San Francisco 49ers and two years going between the practice squad and the active roster with the Lions.
"It was a learning experience," he said. "I got to learn a lot of football. I got to play under Mike Martz, under Mike Singletary and (Scott) Linehan up in Detroit. A lot of great football minds. When you're doing football from 8 to 5 everyday you have no choice but to learn a lot of football."
Finley played quarterback in high school before moving to tight end at Oklahoma and earning honorable mention all-Big 12 honors as a junior and senior.
"I just think it's the people who are around here," he said. "Everybody here has been part of this winning program ever since I can remember. It's not acceptable to lose. It's the people who coach Stoops has put around this place - coaches, players and the academic people who really make it what it is."
Finley enjoyed playing at Oklahoma and is ready to begin what he hopes will be a productive career.
"Whenever you start coaching, you're going to want to be a head coach somewhere," he said. "That's the ultimate goal. But right now I'm just enjoying my time and learning. We'll see wherever it takes me."
Heupel has no doubt Finley is headed in the right direction.
" I love all the intangibles about him," Heupel said.
"He's a great communicator, passionate about the game, passionate about young people and working with them and trying to get them better. He has a bright career ahead of him."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.