Finney's Future At Illinois

From Cali to Champaign, Eric Finney talks about his journey to Illinois

Illinois is moving quickly with a number of junior college prospects, and this weekend they secured the commitments of two, including defender Eric Finney.

Finney didn't waste any time making his commitment, giving his pledge to the Illini before he left to head back home.

"Yeah," he said, "there's a lot of relief. When I committed on the visit it felt really good."

Finney, like many junior college prospects, had a long road to get where he is now. A receiver in high school, Finney made the change to the other side of the ball, and it paid big dividends for him in the long run.

"Coming out of high school, I was in a pretty bigtime high school in Corona, California," he said. "I played receiver there but wasn't a safety. I had some 1AA offers. But I went to a junior college where I played my freshman year, and this past season I played a lot better. It was probably my size. I jumped a lot from 6'0 185 to 6'1 220. To be able to play in the box and up high makes me versatile."

With senior Ashante Williams, the team's primary player at the "star" position last season, Finney, a December graduate, steps in at just the right time.

"I'll be coming in at the STAR position," he said. "It's mostly my ability to play as both a safety and a linebacker. I can blitz or I can drop back. It's really a great fit for me."

Though Finney is a more recent name on most fans' radars, Illinois has been after him for a few months now, and the process hit a big milestone with his commitment this weekend.

"They've been on me probably since early September," Finney said. "It's a great opportunity to be able to play there and when I got the offer it was a no-brainer. They were honest with me throughout the whole process. That was an awesome thing. When I got out on the visit I got to soak it all in, and when it was time, I made the commitment."

Part of what made Finney's decision easier was being recruited by his future defensive coordinator Tim Banks. But, just like it has been with a number of other recruits, Finney's recruitment was a group effort.

"I talked with Coach Banks a lot," he said. "And of course Coach Beckman checked on me a lot. On top of them I got to talk to a lot of the coaches, but they all did a really good job."

Despite being from the West Coast, Finney isn't a complete stranger to Illinois football.

"I knew Illinois from what I'd seen on TV before," he said. "I like that it's Big Ten Football, and the facilities are top-notch. They have a pretty big fan base and a lot of alumni. It was exactly what I expected.

The reality that he'll be playing Big Ten football in just a few months hasn't quite set in yet for Finney, but he made it clear that he's ready to come in and do what it takes to be successful.

"It's very surreal to me," said Finney. "I'm extremely blessed. The chance to come and make an immediate impact makes me want to work even harder. I want to work in with the team as quickly as I can and put in work and when my time to shine comes, I'll be ready for the opportunity."

Finney's drive for success is fueled by a lot of different motivations. One in particular, though, would bring a great chance for a little family get-together.

"When I come to Illinois, I want to be able to improve in whatever ways the staff needs me to," he said. "First of all, though, I want to get a top-notch education. On top of that, I'm hoping we get back to the Rose Bowl so my family can come see me at the Rose Bowl out in California."

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