It has been a different and rough road for former Crete-Monee football player Matt Finnin.
Finnin signed in February to play for Nebraska.
"I never thought when I was playing high school football that I would play for Nebraska," Finnin said. "You always dream of playing in the Big Ten."
Finnin originally signed with Western Michigan, then came home when his dad Gary became sick. His dad died in April. Matt enrolled at the College of DuPage where he played football.
"I was my dad's caretaker and it was tough, but I am glad I did it," Finnin said. "It really isn't that big of a sacrifice when you look at it. The tough part was balancing school, but if my dad needed anything, I was just 45 minutes from home."
At DuPage, he was a big factor in the team soaring to a 9-2 record and a win over Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in the Citizen's Bank Bowl. One scouting service, Rivals.cmo had him as one of the top junior college offensive tackles. At Crete-Monee, he was a Times first-team all-area offensive lineman in 2009. He had offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Florida State, Maryland, Kentucky and Marshall.
"I am very fortunate to have the chance to move on and get a scholarship and play football," Finnin said. "I get my education paid for and that is a big help."
At DuPage, there are no scholarships and his dad helped him pay the freight. He shares an apartment with five other teammates in the western suburbs.
"For $200 a month, I sleep on a couch," Finnin said. "Rents are a little steep out here, but you get used to it.
"That is why I feel very fortunate to go to a place where my tuition and room (and board) is covered by the scholarship."
The 6-foot-7, 307-pound Finnin had to mature quickly. It is always tough to lose a parent, but when you are young like he is, it makes it that much tougher. I am sure he thinks about the great days ahead that Gary will miss, though he said he knows his dad will be looking down on him. He was glad his dad was able to see him sign his letter of intent.
"My dad was real proud of me, but he would be proud if I was working at (a fast-food place)," Finnin said. "He taught me to take pride in whatever I did and if I were frying hamburgers, he would want me to be the best at it. He would go out and tell everyone to eat there because his son is the best cook."
Mat Finnin will make his dad proud and make a few Cornhusker fans proud of him.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.