Chris Finke a young, fresh voice for Notre Dame

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Talking to Chris Finke is like unwrapping a new toy.

Peel back the plastic and hear a fresh voice from the Notre Dame football team.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound sophomore slot receiver/kick and punt returner has thoughts. The other day he met the media for the first time in his brief career and let them flow.

Finke’s story has plenty of twists and turns.

His high school coach, Ed Domsitz – who also coached current Irish players Malik Zaire (quarterback) and Nick Coleman (cornerback) at Archbishop Alter in Kettering, Ohio – convinced Irish coach Brian Kelly to give Finke an audition as a walk-on. He said Kelly wouldn’t be sorry.

With four catches for 33 yards, three punt returns for 38 yards (including a 23-yarder against Miami that set up the game-winning field goal), and four kickoff returns for a 19.8-yard average, the Irish already are getting dividends on their investment.

• Finke talked about the enthusiasm he has toward getting to perform against Army in the Alamodome Saturday, while sporting a new number (10) instead of 27 (he and Julian Love, who is also 27, are on the same special teams unit. Numbers can’t be duplicated on the field). He deciphered the difference between returning kickoffs and punts.

“Kickoff is more scripted, who’s blocking who; run to a certain spot – if it’s there, it’s there; if it’s not, it’s not,” said Finke, who had to make an impact in special teams in high school (six returns for TDs as a senior) because he was a receiver in a run-predicated triple-option offense. “Punt return: You catch it, if there’s some space, you make something if you’ve got it; find your blocks.”

• He talked about being awarded a scholarship during preseason camp, and, with a laugh, being shunned by his walk-on “brothers” once it became official.

“I wasn’t necessarily surprised,” Finke said. “It was surreal. I definitely wasn’t expecting it. Coming in, my goal was to get (a scholarship) by my junior year. It’s nice to do that a year earlier than I planned. I was so grateful that the coaches, staff and my teammates recognized me for it.

“The current walk-ons gave me some (contrived grief for earning the scholarship). After (the announcement), I checked my phone. We have a (walk-on brotherhood) group chat. I saw I had been removed from it. It was pretty funny.”

• He talked about the lessons he’s learned from some special teams mistakes that have been made, like the time fellow punt returner C.J. Sanders allowed indecision to enter his play as he fumbled the ball into the end zone for a Miami touchdown.

“C.J.’s a great guy and a great player, one of my best friends on the team,” Finke said. “It’s a lesson for both of us that when we’re back there: Be decisive and we’ll be fine.”

• He talked about his sister who played Cosette in the Broadway play Les Miserables.

“My whole family, we went to New York (last) Christmas,” said Finke, who was sure to mention he had no talent in that area. “We saw her show. We got to go backstage. I got chills watching her do it, living out her dream.”

• And, he talked about his bird, Chirpie.

“I have a drawing class where I’m actually drawing pictures of him,” said Finke. “Chirpie flew away from his previous owner and landed in our neighborhood. By the time we found his previous owner, it’s a long story, but she let us keep him.”

Gotta love a good story about a boy and his bird.

And everything else that makes Finke unique.

Notre Dame wide receiver Chris Finke (10) looks for running room after making a catch against Nevada on Sept. 10 at Notre Dame Stadium. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)