Catching up with former Raider gridiron star Connor Finn at Union College.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
It’s difficult for Torrington’s Connor Finn to be watching the action from the sidelines when the Union College football team takes the field against an opponent. After all, Finn, a multi-sport athlete at Torrington High School, has been playing football since the third grade. He wants in.
Now a junior at Union College, located in Schenectady, New York, Finn is a backup tight end after starring for the Raiders as a quarterback. He was moved to tight end by coach Jeff Behrman when he arrived on the scene and has seen very limited playing time, getting onto the field occasionally on special teams. But he is not one to complain. He’s a team player and college is, after all, more than sports for most male and female student-athletes.
“It’s much different than I ever expected, however I've enjoyed every moment of it. I switched from quarterback to tight end my sophomore year and it has taken some getting used to. I haven't seen much action but I continue to enjoy it,” meaning practicing and cheering on his teammates.
Despite not seeing a whole lot of playing time, Finn has nonetheless impressed Behrman. “He came here as a quarterback but we had a lot of quarterbacks and we felt it was best for him to have a positional change. He really only started getting into the tight end position last fall. The one thing about Connor is that is a very intelligent person. He picked up on the offense quickly and I think his quarterback background helped him a lot in switching positions.”
Finn worked out hard in the off season (he was a lifeguard in Torrington this past summer) and put on about 15 pounds, which is helping him at his new position when it comes to taking hits and blocking. He is a backup right now but is someone who could come in at any moment.
Behrman said, “In terms of looking at him as a person, he is someone who has been a great leader and a major part of our team’s work within community service programs. He’s very dedicated and really an All-America kid. He is someone I trust and believe in as a person.”
Union, a member of the Liberty League, finished 7-4 last season and played in the inaugural New York Bowl against Cortland State, losing, 35-28. Union opened up its 2018 season with a 30-7 victory over Husson College of Maine, and has schools such as Coast Guard, Springfield and Ithaca on its schedule.
Behrman was named the 36th head coach of the Union College football team in 2016 and is in his third season. In two years, he has completely rebuilt the program, taking a team that went 0-10 the year before his arrival to a 7-4 mark and a bowl appearance in his second season. Under his watch, 24 players have earned All-Liberty League recognition.
Finn, who stands 6-1 and weighs 220 pounds, enjoyed a stellar gridiron career at THS. He threw for around 4,500 career yards and scored close to 60 touchdowns. During his senior year in 2015, he passed for 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns, earning him the team’s overall MVP award and leading his team to a 9-3 record and Naugatuck Valley League Iron division championship. He also served as a captain. He was a ’29 Club award winner, was named to the Naugatuck Valley League All-Iron team in 2014 and made All-NVL in 2015. He was a CIAC Scholar Athlete and a 2016 National Football Foundation & College Football Hall of Fame Scholar Athlete. He was on the National Honor Society and Rho Kappa Honor Society and served as the Student Council Executive Board ‘s President. Last year at Union College he was named to the Liberty League All-Academic Team.
Finn said of the move to college ball, “You must love the sport to play in college, especially Division III. The game is much faster and more physical, and every player was one of the best on their team in high school. This means that you cannot rely on strength or athleticism but also your technique. It is way more intense than I had imagined. Our program is run like a DI program with the way meetings, lifts, and practices are run; the intensity is through the roof. It makes me appreciate the dedication for the game much more than I have in the past.”
Finn, who listed his father (Patrick Finn) and cousin (Bobby Martinotti) as being major influences in his football career (both helped coach him), said the move to tight end was a bit of a surprise. “I never thought I wouldn't play quarterback yet I love the sport regardless.”
As for why he chose to attend Union College, Finn said, “It is a great school academically and offered me the opportunity to play football. I also liked that it was a relatively small and I could build relationships with both my professors and my classmates. I looked at a few NESCAC schools and some other DIII schools to play football, however I liked Union the most. I looked at a few larger schools that were academically challenging but I wanted to play football and chose a smaller school instead.”
Finn believes he has improved as a football player since getting to college. “I understand the game much more than I have in the past. Even though it is faster, I have a larger IQ thanks to my coaches.”
And, of course, he is excelling in the classroom. He holds a 3.8 GPA as a Political Science major and a History and Environmental Science minor. “Classes are going great and I really enjoy being able to focus more on the topics I enjoy in school. It makes it much easier to be passionate about school. Football brings a lot of structure to your life and that translates into academics. It forces you to do your work because you have less time for leisurely activities and have to make sure you get it done.”
Finn said his biggest thrill in football is team based. “Whenever the team wins it is always fun and exciting. We have great chemistry and camaraderie. And I have learned a lot about adversity. When things get tough, you have to keep going regardless of the situation. I think that applies to anything in life, and in football, there is always adversity in practice, in games and in general.”
Connor Finn may not be getting onto the playing field as much as he would like, but he impressed everyone he has come into contact with at Union, from his coaches and teammates to his professors and friends. And isn’t that really what attending college should be all about?