Chris Finke traveled to the NFL Scouting Combine as that most rare of pro prospect: An unheralded Notre Dame player.
Not that it seemed to bother him.
“I’ve never been one of the big-name guys,” the Alter High School graduate told the Dayton Daily News on Tuesday. “I’ve never been one people pay the most attention to. I’ve had to do a lot of things to get where I am and overcome things like that, and I’m just going to have to do it again.”
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“Being here is an incredible opportunity regardless of what kind of attention I’m getting. I’m still here. I’m doing the same thing everybody else is doing, and I’m excited about it.”
The 5-foot-9, 186-pounder is far from the biggest receiver at the combine, and he may not be among the fastest, either.
He’s not even the best-known player at his position from his school — that would be Chase Claypool — but Finke sounded undeterred two days before getting his chance to work out for NFL teams.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” he said. “There’s a lot going on but just taking it day by day, event by event. Realizing how cool it is to be here and take advantage of all opportunities.”
After helping Alter reach the state championship game his senior season, Finke joined the Notre Dame program as a walk-on in 2015.
He said Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly became aware of him while recruiting Nick Coleman, a three-star prospect who was in the same class at Alter.
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While Coleman was a part of Notre Dame’s 13th-ranked recruiting class and had a scholarship waiting for him when he arrived in South Bend, Finke had to earn his after he got there.
He did just that after redshirting in the fall of 2015 and went on to have a productive career.
Fink was put on scholarship a year into his tenure at Notre Dame, and he caught 10 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.
After catching six passes for 102 yards a year later, Finke became a regular in 2018, catching 49 passes for 571 yards and two touchdowns as the Fighting Irish went undefeated in the regular season and made the College Football Playoff.
Last season, Finke started nine games and caught 31 passes for 456 yards and four touchdowns to finish with 106 receptions for 1,251 yards and eight scores through the air.
He was also an effective punt returner, averaging nine yards per runback last season, and hopes that versatility will raise the odds he can find a spot on an NFL roster.
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“I want to show teams that I’ll compete,” he said. “I’ve got the work ethic and anything I can do to be on a team to make a team, to contribute to a team, I want teams to know I’m going to do it. Put me in a room with anybody, it’s gonna be a fight. Put me on the field with anybody and I’m gonna compete.”
At the combine, Finke will be working out for more than just himself.
He is also raising money for charity through Uplifting Athletes. For every inch of his vertical jump, fans can donate money with his goal of jumping 35 inches and raising $2,000.
Uplifting Athletes is an organization founded in 2007 to raise money for the fight against rare diseases.
>>CLICK HERE for more on the Finke’s challenge
Finke became aware of it at Notre Dame, a school he left with no regrets.
“I just wanted to play at the highest level I could,” he said. “If I picked a different opportunity, I think I would always regret it. You know, what if I had gone to Notre Dame?
“I accomplished my goals in terms of earning a scholarship, being a main contributor and being a captain, so I’m really happy about how all that turned out. Met a lot of great people there, and it was an overall great experience. Wish we would have been able to pull off a national championship, but a great experience for sure.”
He also credits the people at Alter for preparing him to succeed at the highest level of college football — and perhaps beyond.
“I think obviously Alter has a great football program, and I think the world of the football staff there,” said Finke, who played defense, ran the ball, caught passes and returned punts and kicks for the Knights.
“They prepared me to have the discipline to work hard every day and get what you earn,” Finke said. “Those coaches are going to be my mentors for life and people I’ll always remember so they’ve prepared me very well.”
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