Finley Felix hasn’t always been one to flaunt his size. There were times when he was younger that the Riverdale junior was actually uncomfortable with it.
That came with the territory. He was 6-foot-1 and 270 pounds as a 10-year-old. By his freshman year of high school, he had shot up to 6-4 and weighed close to 310.
“It meant I had to be more gentle around people,” Felix said of his size. “I couldn’t just go running about. I had to be careful with who I was with.”
It took a new teacher arriving into the district in 2013 for Felix to understand that size wasn’t exactly a disadvantage. That teacher, Damon Jones, also happened to be the new football coach.
Felix joined the football team as a freshman, and then made varsity as a sophomore. Over the past two seasons, the offensive tackle has turned heads while developing as a player.
In March, he earned an invitation to the U.S. Army National Combine in San Antonio, following a regional Football University i350 combine and skills clinic in Naples.
“He’s got physical attributes,” Jones said. “He’s big. He’s got long arms. He’s got good feet. He’s a great kid. He works hard. He’s got so much upside and potential. I don’t even think he’s hit puberty yet.”
Felix is No. 15 on The News-Press’ ranking of the best recruits in Southwest Florida.
“He had been playing only two years, so as a sophomore to start at a 7A school every game is quite the accomplishment,” said Jones, whose Raiders went 5-5 in 2014. “As long as he wants to keep learning, I think the sky is the limit for him.”
Felix is still an unknown in most recruiting circles. While the linemen has been a fixture at college exposure camps this summer, programs aren’t biting just yet. Felix has yet to secure an offer from a major college.
That doesn’t worry Jones right now.
“I really do think he’s a Division I talent,” he said. “When you combine his physical attributes with his work ethic, he’s a high character kid. That gets overlooked.”
Just two years into his career, Felix still has plenty to learn. He’s shown great skill as a pass blocker where his long arms and solid footwork make pursuing the quarterback almost impossible.
But in the run game, Jones still thinks Felix needs to discover his sweet spot, even if that means getting a little mean.
“He sometimes over thinks it and loses his aggression,” Jones said. “We’re working hard on that. He’s so tall. You ask him to come down inside and block guys in the pile. Sometimes that can be difficult.”
Felix is learning how to separate his ambivalent personality with the mean offensive tackle most of his teammates and coaches want him to become.
“It’s been exciting and difficult,” Felix said. “I’ve had to go through people who have been playing varsity for over three years and that’s made me had to adapt quick. But I’ve been getting things down faster and faster.”
Despite Felix’s growing pains as a run blocker, his presence was key in Riverdale’s improvement in the run game, helping the Raiders double their production from 71 yards a game in 2013 to 156 yards in 2014.
Jones, a former Dartmouth football player, has been important in Felix’s football upbringing.
“We’re trying to get him to realize that once we leave the locker room, we need nasty, mean Finley who can knock guys in the dirt,” Jones said. “But as soon as he walks across the line, you can go back to happy-go-lucky Finley. When we cross those lines, we need a different switch and a different button you can push.”
In some respects, that’s why Felix joined football in the first place. He said he wanted an outlet.
“I played football because it was another way to let my frustrations out,” he said. “But after awhile I started loving it. I don’t know what I would do without it.”
About The Big 15
The News-Press is publishing profiles on standout football recruits every Tuesday and Friday until the start of the high school football season. Players going into their junior and senior years were considered from both Lee and Collier counties, with respect paid to those with hard scholarship offers and those without who possess great potential. The top 15 candidates were named and ranked, with the last story focusing on the very best recruit in Southwest Florida.