FOXBOROUGH — Explosive. Exciting.
These are the words that come to mind when you turn on a highlight reel of Oklahoma running back Roy Finch. It’s no surprise to hear him use those words to describe himself.
At 5-foot-7 and 167 pounds, though, “football player” are far from the words that come to mind when standing next to him.
Somehow, he finds a way to use his size to his advantage.
“You have to take advantage of anything that you can,” he told reporters at Gillette Stadium on Thursday. “That comes with anything, as a player, a reporter, whatever.”
He didn’t get many opportunities to take advantage of anything in college; no one really knows why, and no one would say much about it. Regardless of circumstance, Finch refuses to look back in anger.
“I really don’t know,” he said, when asked why he didn’t get more touches. “Just unfortunate. I’m glad to be here. The Patriots gave me an opportunity, and I’m taking full advantage of it.”
The lack of opportunities in college may have led to the lack of interest in the draft.
It certainly led to a lack of familiarity with him among draft analysts. CBS Sports‘ scouting report contained no strengths, weaknesses, or player overview, only his Pro Day numbers. That’s better than NFL.com, which had no scouting report at all.
So, for the uninitiated, what kind of player are the Patriots getting?
“A very exciting player,” he said. “A player that’s going to make a lot of plays.”
His highlight reels resemble a Tecmo Bowl version of Bo Jackson at times. He weaves in and out with two or three cutbacks on any given play, milking every last yard out of his runs.
It’s surprising to see a small guy so consistently breaking tackles. Not just bouncing off them, either. Straight-up plowing through them.
What’s going through his mind when he has the ball in his hands?
“Just score,” he said. “Break a long one and just be explosive with the ball in my hands no matter where I’m at.”
No one wants to enter the league as an undrafted free-agent, but Finch feels fortunate to sign with the Patriots, his favorite team as a child. He grew up admiring quarterback Tom Brady from afar, but now that he will be working with him side-by-side, he says it’s all business.
“You have to let all that slide and focus on becoming a great player to help this team,” he said. “We’re on the same team now. We’re trying to win a championship.”
Finch can help accomplish that goal, if he pulls off anything like his routine Houdini acts at Oklahoma. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry in his four-year career (262 carries, 1,412 yards) and 5.9 yards per carry as a senior (59 carries, 347 yards). He also returned kicks, with 43 career returns for 1,099 yards and a touchdown.
He may not have an opportunity to make a significant contribution barring catastrophe. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen still figure to be the Patriots’ two top backs this coming season. Finch will likely battle with Brandon Bolden and James White for the third and fourth roster spots at running back.
With such a deep group of running backs, Finch is probably going to have to prove himself in other areas to make the roster. Fortunately, he thinks he can contribute in a number of other positions.
“Pretty much anything, slot receiver, halfback, kickoff return, punt return — you know, explosive positions where the ball can be in my hands,” he said. “I’m just excited to learn, there’s a lot that I need to learn that I didn’t get taught that our coaches are teaching us now.”
There’s always room for a versatile, undrafted, undersized running back on the Patriots’ roster. Danny Woodhead carved out a niche as a dependable third-down back with receiving ability.
Finch wants to forge his own path.
“I don’t really model my game after anyone but me,” he said. “I look up to guys in the league, but I’m my own player. I’m trying to make my own way and make my own trademark.”