Everyone tries to be like Tom Brady, but NC State quarterback Ryan Finley basically is

Ryan Hannable
March 04, 2019 - 8:21 am
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All of the quarterbacks coming out in the 2019 draft want to be at least somewhat like Tom Brady. 

After all, he’s the greatest quarterback of all time and no matter what style of quarterback a player is, he can take some aspect of Brady’s game. But, naturally, it’s hard to actually achieve.

No one can perform as well as Brady does in the clutch. No one can read defenses like he can. And no one can fit the ball into the tightest of windows like he can. While all those things are very hard to do, doing what Brady does off the field can be done with a little dedication, and that is exactly what NC State quarterback Ryan Finley has done.

The 24-year-old is a big believer in the TB12 Method. It isn’t just resistance band work or some occasional avocado ice cream, it’s everything.

In college, Finley would wear special glasses that would shield his eyes from certain types of lights to make sure he was asleep at 10 o’clock so he could get a full eight hours of sleep. He also was very strict with when and what he was eating, and made sure he would stick to it, which was obviously not easy to do living on a college campus. Lastly, he worked as hard as he could off the field to do whatever he could to prevent any injuries from happening.

It paid off as he played all 13 games in all three of his seasons at NC State.

“It’s very unique,” Eliah Drinkwitz, Finley’s college offensive coordinator told WEEI.com via phone. “You are talking about a young man who understands the window to play football is small and you have to maximize that window. He’s very intelligent with understanding how to do that. I think it is unique and I think it is a strength.”

Finley is also extremely competitive in everything he does, not just on game day. It could be a throwing competition at practice, or even a small game in the locker room -- he doesn’t want to lose at anything.

“Honestly, it is kind of annoying,” Drinkwitz said. “If you play ping-pong, he’s going to try and beat you. If you play checkers, he’s going to try and beat you. If you’re playing an accuracy game in an individual drill, if he doesn’t win he’s going to be upset. If it is a competition that has a winner or a loser, Ryan Finley will do whatever, however, work at it, until he is the winner. He’s one of the most competitive kids I have ever been around, if not the most competitive kid I have ever been around.”

Sound familiar? A No. 12 in New England is the exact same way.

On the field, it’s never come easy for Finley. In 2013, he red-shirted at Boise State before playing a little in 2014. Then in 2015, he started the first three games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. While Finley was out for the year, a freshman named Brett Rypien (who also is a 2019 QB prospect and the two remain close friends) took over and was so impressive he became starter from there on out.

Finley wanted to play, so he transferred to NC State, which worked out perfectly because he followed Drinkwitz, who was also his coordinator at Boise. Once at NC State, he became the starter right away and got better and better each year.

“I think he did a great job of not trying to come in — he came in and did what he needed to job,” Drinkwitz said. “He didn’t try and come in and establish himself as the alpha, that was Bradley Chubb’s football team. He just needed to provide a solid quarterback.” 

It didn’t take long for him to earn the respect of his new teammates, as he was eventually voted a team captain by his peers.

“You know, anytime you're going to be a part of a new group, you just want to come in and work as hard as you can, lead by example, show the people around you that you care, care about winning and kind of show that through your preparation,” Finley said at the NFL combine. “And a big part for me was just showing my understanding of the offense. Because I had been in that offense for a few years, so that was a big part of it.”

In his first season (2016), he finished with 3,059 yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions for a QB rating of 135.2. Last fall, he finished with just under 4,000 yards passing with 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 140 QB rating. 

Although the Wolfpack were blown out in the Gator Bowl, it was still an outstanding college career for Finley, who his teammates respected greatly.

“Ryan is a mastermind on the field,” NC State wide receiver Jakobi Meyers said at the combine. “I was proud to follow that guy into battle each week. It was a great experience being with him.”

He added: “He wasn’t the most outspoken, but you knew if Ryan was doing it, you probably should be following it. Ryan isn’t necessarily — don’t tell him I said [this] — he isn’t necessarily wrong too many times. Honestly, you will follow him, but you won’t tell him you’re following him. ‘Yeah, I see what you’re doing, maybe I should try that too.'”

As it relates to the 2019 draft, Finley has climbed the draft boards in recent weeks with great performances at the Senior Bowl and combine. While he’s not at the level of Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins, he certainly has a chance of hearing his name called on Day 2 of the draft.

His experience should be something that makes him stand out to teams, as he’s played in a ton of games and has been through a lot. This could potentially help him when joining a NFL team as a rookie and likely not being the Day 1 starter.

“At 23, he’s been through life,” Drinkwitz said. “He’s had some good life experience that he’s had to grow and learn. Nothing has been handed to him.  He’s matured and shown some toughness through all those things.”

Finley added: “I’m experienced from starting 43 games in my college career, the ability to transfer to another team and start on two different teams I think is important, especially when you measure a guy's ability to go from college to the pros. I feel like I've done something similar to that.”

The NC State product fits a lot of what the Patriots look for in quarterbacks — accurate, smart and experienced — so he certainly could be an option as the Patriots search for Brady’s eventual replacement.

Finley wouldn’t mind that being the case.

“That would be unbelievable, just a chance to learn from them and that whole organization would be awesome,” he said. “So, I look forward to any opportunity I get, but an opportunity like that would be pretty awesome just to learn and grown and see how things are done.”

While he certainly would learn a great deal from Brady, he would also come in with a pretty good head start.

And a good night’s sleep.

Related: Which linebackers stand out from Patriots perspective at 2019 NFL combine

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