James Whitcomb Riley High School '96 South Bend, Ind. As the last player chosen, Finn received the title of "Mr. Irrelevant." Although the label might seem amusing, it carries a fair amount of prestige. While other late-round picks went unheralded, Finn found himself bombarded with interview requests, along with the spoils that accompany his precarious position. "I was shocked," Finn said. "They are flying my out to California for a vacation for a week to do all of this promotional stuff. I even get a lifetime pass for free admission to Disney World." To grab the '98 Bushnell Cup winner, Chicago used its 13th pick overall, the 47th selection of the seventh round -- a compensatory selection bestowed on the expansion Cleveland Browns and later traded to the Bears. Although elated about his selection, Finn suffered the unfortunate reality of an Ivy League football player seeking respect. Entering the draft as the sixth-ranked fullback by Pro Football Weekly, the Fair Lawn, N.J., native had fallen to ninth among fullbacks when the final sheets were tallied. Things had seemed positive for Finn on the first day of the draft. San Diego selected Jermaine Fazande, a fullback from Oklahoma, with the 29th pick in the second round. Many scouts had Finn ranked right behind Fazande, giving the Penn senior hope of being drafted earlier than anticipated. "I thought there could be a shot that I could creep up to the fifth or sixth [round]," Finn said. The following day, Finn first witnessed the Philadelphia Eagles pass him up for Cecil Martin, a fullback from Wisconsin. Then Finn sat motionless as the Green Bay Packers passed over the 6'1", 249-lb. Quaker with their back-to-back seventh round selections. With the rising likelihood of Finn not being selected, several teams that had ignored him in the draft contacted him on his cellular phone. "As the draft wore down, I was talking to Philly, Tennessee and Indianapolis to sign as a free agent if I didn't get drafted," Finn said. "We were getting called back and forth. They were trying to sell their program to me." During his phone conversations, Brown wide receiver Sean Morey became the first Ivy League player selected in the 1999 draft, as New England grabbed Morey -- who won the Bushnell Cup as league MVP in '97 -- with the 35th selection in the seventh round (241st overall). Fortunately for Finn, he did not have to worry about signing on as a free agent. Minutes before it was publicly announced, Finn received a call telling him to pack his bags for the Windy City. While a contract won't be resolved until the middle of the summer, Finn has already flown to Chicago to meet the rest of the Bears and take part in a mini-camp. "Now I got a place to go," Finn said. "I am really excited. I am going to go out and prove that I can play ball." For Finn, the waiting is over. "Mr. Irrelevant" will get a chance to realize his dream with his first taste of the NFL.Comments powered by Disqus
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