| FTBL Phillip Marshall on TJ Finley's (LSU transfer) arrival at Auburn

For TJ Finley, it’s been a time like no other. The football journey that started when he was 6 years old, taller and more athletic than any of his classmates in Hammond, La., has taken him to a place he never imagined he would be.

Finley, who started five games as a true freshman quarterback at LSU last season, will arrive Monday at Auburn, where he will compete with two-year starter Bo Nix for Auburn’s quarterback job. Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 250 pounds, Finley has a powerful right arm. He’s not a runner, but he’s an athlete who can move deftly in the pocket. He’s an honor student who graduated early from high school to enroll at LSU.

After Myles Brennan was lost to an injury, Finley was named LSU’s starting quarterback last season. He was stellar in his first game, a 52-24 victory over South Carolina. He completed 17 of 21 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns.

After Finley’s spectacular debut, there were good times and bad. Ironically, perhaps Finley’s worst day was in a 48-11 loss at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Later, he shared time with fellow freshman Max Browne. By the end of the season, Browne was getting more playing time. After spring practice, Finley decided it was time to move on. He chose Auburn over offers from numerous big-time programs.

Monday, Finley and his parents will drive to Auburn, where a new adventure awaits. It will be another step in the lifetime of a young man who has long sought excellence as an athlete, as a student and in his faith.

“I believe in God, and I believe this is the plan God has for me,” Finley said Friday. “I’m going to take this next step with faith. I’m thankful for everything, and I thank God for the opportunities I have.”

Such is Finley’s way of living, and it is not by accident. His parents, David and Shannon Finley, own Family Health Clinic, a rural clinic which serves underserved people and Medicaid patients in the Hammond area.

“He’s an outgoing, very talented young man,” Shannon Finley said. “He’s smart. He loves football and has a very high IQ for football. He loves people. He has a big heart. The most important thing is he loves God. I call him my teddy bear giant. He has such a big heart.”

David Finley, whose promising career as a baseball pitcher was cut short by knee injuries, coached his son from the time he was 6 years and old and playing youth football and later on a travel football team. Shannon Finley, a self-described “bookworm,” did her part, too.

“I was more of the core, body work girl,” Shannon Finley said. “His daddy taught him how to throw the ball and things of that nature. I did the gym work. When he got to junior high, that’s when he started playing on a travel team. My husband was an athlete. I was a bookworm. I was a nerd.”

.Football wasn’t TJ Finley’s first love. He was a standout in basketball, too, and dreamed of playing in the NBA. He was a highly regarded prospect as a high school freshman. He had Division I offers as a high school senior, but by then, he was focused on football.

“I actually was ranked top 20 in my class my freshman year, but I stopped playing AAU and only played high school ball,” Finley said. “Basketball was my favorite, but I thought I had a better chance of making it to the NFL than the NBA just because of the number of people who get drafted in the NBA compared to the NFL.”

It was the summer before his freshman year at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Hammond when Finley became convinced that his future was in football.

“I started on the varsity over a junior that had started for two or three years,” Finley said. “I won the starting job and he went to play another position. Since then, I’ve been working very hard to accomplish the things I have accomplished to date.”

After his freshman year, Finley transferred to Ponchatoula High School, where he was a three-year starter. Ponchatoula head coach Hank Tierney says Finley has the talent and the mindset to excel on the field and off.

“He was one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever been around as far as working hard to improve his skillset,” Tierney said. “He has an extremely high football IQ. I mean, he was an honor student. He graduated in December with a great GPA. He’s a very smart kid in the classroom, but he’s also extremely smart on the field.”

Finley says he feels no bitterness toward LSU. On the contrary, he is grateful for the opportunity to play for his state school and gain valuable experience as an SEC starter.

“It helped me in a lot of ways,” Finley said. “A lot of LSU fans were bashing me and things of that nature. I had some good games and had some bad games. I thank God for the situation I was put in. It was a true test of my character. I never got too down on myself or my teammates.
“If I had not played those five games and performed the way I did, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now.”

TJ Finley was a 4-year starter in high school.

Once Finley made the decision to transfer, he and his family began to look at his options. COVID-19 restrictions made in-person visits impossible, but they were quickly impressed with Auburn coaches, Auburn people and the Auburn campus.

“I am super excited,” his mother said. “We haven’t even touched the campus yet, and the love and support we have received not only from the staff but even from fans that have reached out to us and welcomed us with open arms. It’s been very welcoming, very inviting. We are bringing him up Monday.

“They did a great job of doing a virtual tour for us. We were able to see quite a bit of the campus. It’s very beautiful, very family oriented.”

Finley, who has four years of eligibility remaining, said Auburn coaches promised him only an opportunity to compete with Nix.

“I look forward to making him better,” Finley said. “I look forward to all the things he has to bring to the table to help me out. I’m excited.”
Coach Saban gets Momma involved. This doesn't look like Mama Finley too involved.

“I am super excited,” his mother said. “We haven’t even touched the campus yet, and the love and support we have received not only from the staff but even from fans that have reached out to us and welcomed us with open arms. It’s been very welcoming, very inviting. We are bringing him up Monday.
Last edited:
He has no chance of even competing much less win the starting QB job as long as Bo is there. Bo Nix and dad were guaranteed starter while he was a senior in high school. It doesn’t matter who is the head coach.
Top Bottom