Saints Pick UConn's Fincher In Third Round

<P>Big East linebacker Alfred Fincher was the first UConn player chosen in the NFL Draft in over a decade. Fincher, who has seen his stock rise dramatically, moved from a second day prospect to being a first-day selection of the New Orleans Saints.</P><P>Fincher was looked at by a number of other NFL clubs including New England.</P>

Saints Pick UConn's Fincher In Third Round
Inside LB's Selection Is Earliest Round Ever For Huskies Player
By The New London Day, Staff Writers

Alfred Fincher became the first UConn player selected in the NFL Draft since 1994 when he was taken 82nd overall by the New Orleans Saints Saturday night.

Eleven years ago, Paul Duckworth was chosen by the Green Bay Packers in thesixth round (190th overall).

Going in the third round, Fincher's selection marks the earliest round ever for a UConn pick. He's also the earliest Husky selected overall since Walt Dropo went at No. 74 to the Chicago Bears in 1946.

“It is very exciting,” Fincher said. “I was sitting here watching the draft and my heart started beating while I saw the other linebackers go. I felt like I can compete with those other linebackers as they kept going and I did not go. I was a little nervous about it but now that I know I am going to be a Saint I am really excited about it.”

Fincher, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound inside linebacker, was the third Big East Conference player to be drafted, trailing only cornerback Adam Jones of West Virginia, going sixth overall to the Tennessee Titans, and offensive tackle Adam Terry of Syracuse, taken in the second round, 64th overall, by the Baltimore Ravens.

“I'm very proud of Al and very happy for him,” UConn head coach Randy Edsall said. “This is the highest that UConn has ever had a player selected (third round) and it is a well-deserved honor for all of the time and effort that Alfred has invested in bettering himself.

“It is a situation where you are happy to see great things such as this happen for good people. This is a great reward for what he has done here, not only in terms of his own personal gains that he has made, but also for the gains that this program has made as a result of his hard work and dedication.”

Fincher is the first Husky to be drafted by the Saints, who took him with their third pick at 18th in the third round. New Orleans chose Oklahoma offensive tackle Jammal Brown with the 13th pick of the first round and Nebraska safety Josh Bullocks with the eighth pick of the second round.

“He looks the part, as far as being a physical build,” Rick Reiprish, director of college scouting for New Orleans, said of Fincher. “He's outstanding with the intangible things. The work ethic, he brings his lunch pail every day to practice. He's a hard worker. He's really a football player. He was productive at Connecticut. He brings a football mentality to the team.”

Reiprish added that he thinks Fincher will be an outside linebacker in the NFL.

“The Saints organization has a lot of good people in it,” Edsall said. “I worked with a few of them in Jacksonville. Jim Haslett is an excellent coach and if they're willing to invest a third-round pick in Al, then I'm sure he is entering into a good situation in terms of his potential role on the team.”

A first-team All-Big East pick in 2004, Fincher appeared in 47 career games, starting 35, including each of the final 29 games of his UConn career. He ranks sixth in UConn history with his 357 career tackles and is fourth with his 35.5 career tackles for loss.

In 2004, Fincher served as the team's lone captain on defense and turned in a strong season, leading the league with his 140 tackles as the Huskies went 8-4 overall and won the Motor City Bowl in Detroit, Dec. 27. His 11.67 stops per game ranked sixth in the nation while he also added 12 tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, seven pass break-ups, a fumble recovery and five forced fumbles.

Fincher showed a knack for stepping up his play in bigger games with a career high 21 stops against West Virginia Oct. 13 on the heels of making 17 tackles against Pittsburgh Sept. 30, equaling his then-career high. For his efforts, he earned UConn's first ever Big East Defensive Player of the Week honor.

Expecting to be drafted higher Saturday, Fincher now has extra motivation to prove others wrong starting off his professional career.

“I feel like any team that messed up on me it is their loss and I am coming to New Orleans and they know what I am about,” Fincher said. “I am going to go down there and take care of that defense and I am going to take it over like it is mine. I am going there with a mission.”

Fincher plans to celebrate his selection with family and friends and then get right to work: “I'm just going to enjoy the moment. I will probably be out (Saturday night) running the stadium getting ready to go to work.”

This Article has been provided by the staff of the New London Day Sports Department, and is reprinted with permission. You can find more information on The Day, in their sports section (registration required)

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