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Texas DE Justice Finkley taking full advantage of NIL era

Cody Kluge BVM Sports Journalist/Editor

AUSTIN, Texas (BVM) – Justice Finkley is closing in on the end of his first season playing with the Texas Longhorns. As just a freshman, Finkley was able to earn playing time for the Longhorns defense, and overall, he has seen his first year in Austin as a success.

“It was great, honestly,” Finkley said about his freshman season. “Coming in, I didn’t expect to play a lot unless we were in high-scoring game situations. But I was actually utilized whether that was rotating in with the starters, or playing a little end or some other positions.”

Finkley made his Texas debut on Sept. 3 against UL Monroe where he earned the first of six tackles he has had on the season. In the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma on Oct. 8, Finkley made his first sack during a 49-0 blowout victory for the Longhorns.

“That was exciting,” Finkley said about his first sack. “All of the hours, the reps, stuff I’ve been putting in in practice, finally showing out on the field. Especially in one of the biggest games of the year, it was such an empowering moment for me.”

Overall, the 2022 season has been a strong one for the Longhorns under second-year head coach Steve Sarkisian. Texas concluded the regular season 8-4 with the team’s only losses coming in close games to highly-ranked teams in Alabama, Oklahoma State and TCU, as well as a tough overtime defeat at Texas Tech. 

The Longhorns will await their fate when it comes to what bowl game they will play in to close out the season. Regardless of where they go from here, Finkley has accomplished what he wanted to in his freshman year, and the momentum should carry over to 2023.

“I think my main goal was to just get some experience under my belt so I can get ready for year two,” Finkley said. 

Finding success on the gridiron is nothing new for the 6-foot-2, 245-pound edge rusher. Growing up in Alabama, Finkley played at Hewitt-Trussville High School with a program that got him ready for what he would eventually face in the Big 12.

Justice Finkley Texas Longhorns NIL GoodSport
Justice Finkley became a defensive standout at Hewitt-Trussville High School in Alabama, racking up 96 tackles in his senior season. (Photo: Jared Wilks)

“I think Hewitt-Trussville, from a development standpoint, was great,” Finkley said. “It definitely got me ready for the next level. It definitely put me in the position to be able to do the things I am now.”

Finkley played on defense, offense and special teams throughout his high school career, doing whatever was needed to help his team win. As a senior, he led Hewitt-Trussville to a 9-3 campaign, amassing 96 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles as an All-American and all-state performer.

However, one of Finkley’s breakout moments came much earlier in his high school career. In a game during his freshman year against No. 1-ranked Thompson High School which featured current Maryland quarterback Tualia Tagovailoa, Finkley made multiple sacks. The performance not only made Finkley himself realize just how great his potential was in the sport, but also led many colleges to begin taking notice of the eventual four-star recruit.

Over the next few years, Finkley would receive a bevy of Power 5 offers. By the time he made a commitment in September of 2021, Finkley had narrowed his options down to the likes of Texas, Stanford, Michigan, Colorado and home-state Alabama. 

Finkley sought out somewhere that would place an equal focus on both football and academics. Ultimately, the perfect match was Texas.

“Really, I based my recruiting off of books and ball,” Finkley said. “I knew I wanted to be a surgeon and eventually go to med school, so education was really important to me, especially with doctors in the household.

“Coming to Texas, I get the best of both worlds, and I’m forever thankful for this opportunity.”

Finkley’s parents, Jacqnaii and April, both earned doctorate degrees in education from Samford University. They have instilled the importance of school and academics in Justice for many years, and he is prepared to also soon earn a college degree. Currently, Justice envisions himself becoming a plastic surgeon after his football career, but also has an interest in business, entrepreneurship and real estate.

“Football is not going to last forever,” Justice added. “I knew I wanted a great degree that speaks volumes. Having a degree from Texas is going to open a lot of doors in the future.”

In just his first year at Texas, Justice has already been able to explore the business world a bit through NIL opportunities. He has an estimated NIL value of $74K by On3, and has over 53K followers across his Twitter, Instagram and TikTok accounts. The ability to build his brand while also earning money for the work he is putting in on and off the field is an opportunity Justice is very thankful for.

“It’s actually such a blessing that I was able to be recruited in this era,” Justice said. “I get to be paid for all the hard work I do on the field.”

In addition to doing some signings and making other appearances, Justice has signed two main NIL deals thus far. The first came with GoodSport, a beverage firm that creates a healthier, all-natural, first-of-its-kind sports drink for quick and long-lasting hydration. The Texas freshman was one of a handful of athletes to sign on with the company, promoting their products on social media.

“They really align with my values,” Justice said. “As far as the physical side of it, whether it’s recovering or getting ready for games, GoodSport is the best of both worlds. When I just want to chill and have a drink, GoodSport is good for that too. Honestly, after drinking it, I feel great.

“They said that they really liked what they saw in me, they liked the type of kid I am, the type of athlete I am. They told me what they’re all about, I told them what I was all about, and it really just made sense from there for me to join with them.”

More recently, Justice has signed another notable NIL deal with the gaming company Activision. Through this deal, he has been one of six athletes who have promoted the video game “Crash Bandicoot” on TikTok.

“I was giving away free game codes, we were making videos to promote the game,” Justice said. “I thought it made sense for me to do because growing up, I always had a PSP, and I played ‘Crash Bandicoot’ a lot on it. I didn’t mind doing this at all. It was great bringing back a couple of memories playing the game.”

Justice Finley Texas Longhorns NIL GoodSport
Justice Finkley has already signed multiple NIL deals during his time as an athlete for the Longhorns, including one with GoodSport. (Photo: Jared Wilks)

While he and his family always keep an eye out for new opportunities, Justice is hoping to eventually get an agent to further his NIL involvement. In any case, he hopes to sign more deals in the future, whether it be product promotion or being able to give back to charitable causes.

“Seeking out NIL deals, I’ll probably get some more,” Justice said. “The more I play ball, keeping the main thing the main thing, those things will just fall in my lap.”

While the edge rusher’s future remains bright off the field, his main goal is to continue shining on the gridiron. As he continues his Longhorns career, Justice is hoping to add more versatility to his game, and wants to be able to play multiple positions in order to help his team succeed.

“I want to be used as more of an athlete that can play multiple positions,” Justice said. “For me, I think versatility adds a lot of value, not only on the draft board, but just to you as a person, whether that’s on or off the field. That’s what I really hope to be next year.”

Whether for his team, the Big 12 Conference, or perhaps even all of college football, Justice wants to become a sacks leader, and also hopes to become a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy at some point, which is awarded annually to the top defensive player in college football.

Beyond that, Justice is prepared to take his football career as far as it can go. Currently, he looks up to similarly versatile defensive playmakers in the NFL such as Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, and Arizona Cardinals standout Isaiah Simmons.

Justice Finkley Texas Longhorns Big 12 college football NIL
Justice Finkley will look to become a leader of the Texas defense going forward in his college football career. (Credit: Gary Landers/The Enquirer, Cincinnati Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

For years, Justice was surprisingly not all that big of a fan of football despite showing flashes of brilliance on the field time and again. But as he developed further during his high school career, and has now had a chance to take the field at Texas, joining some of his role models in the NFL someday has become an opportunity he looks forward to pursuing.

“It’d be very special, a blessing actually,” Justice said. “Personally, I’ve never been that into sports. I would play in little league, do something great, and it was always something I was just naturally good at. Every time I did something well, I was nonchalant about it. I wasn’t even sure with how the process of playing in college, recruiting, how that all went until I got my first offer my freshman year. And then I started really looking into all that stuff, and even then, it still took me some time to actually get into the sport and for it to become something that I love doing. 

“Playing in the NFL, playing with some of the greats and future greats would be an amazing opportunity. I think it’s going to take a lot of hard work and sacrifice from now up until that point to get to that point.”