Ryan Finley was in his second year of tackle football, and his first as the starting quarterback at Paradise Valley High in Phoenix, when his coach used a blowout loss as a teaching moment.
Finley had thrown several interceptions, so Donnie Yantis treated the closing minutes like practice giving his sophomore quarterback specific instructions on each play.
He would throw to the guy rather than read the defender, Yantis said. He threw a lot of picks. After the last one, he came over. I said, Hey, this is a learning experience. He said, Im tired of learning.
He was such a competitor. At that point, against that team, it really kind of changed him as a player.
Finley blossomed into what Yantis calls a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback and on Wednesday, Finley will send a National Letter of Intent to Boise State.
The 6-foot-4, 185-pound righty committed in March 2012 accepting his first and, because he never showed interest in anyone else, only scholarship offer.
Im super stoked, Finley said Tuesday. Committing was a big deal. I was 100 percent sure that that was where I wanted to go. Signing Day is still a really big deal and Im really excited for it. This is another step in reaching Boise and reaching some of my goals.
Finley enjoyed an exceptional senior season. He was 270-of-424 (63.7 percent) for 3,442 yards and 35 touchdowns with eight interceptions.
His team finished 7-4 and reached the playoffs for the first time in three years.
He broke every school record imaginable in terms of throwing the ball and led us to a playoff berth with an average team, Yantis said. Boises getting themselves a very competitive, intelligent, hard-working kid. Hes going to do some great things.
Finley, who is one of Paradise Valleys top basketball players and has competed in varsity tennis and track, showed a flair for the dramatic last season, too.
Twice in back-to-back games he tossed a game-winning touchdown pass on fourth down in the fourth quarter on Paradise Valleys final possession.
Thats why Yantis says Finleys leadership and game awareness set him apart.
That really set the tone for our season, Yantis said of the two thrillers.
Finley stayed in close contact with the Broncos coaches. Coach Chris Petersen attended one of his games and quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith watched all of his games on video and provided tips.
A lot of stuff I worked on, mainly in practice, that showed in the games, Finley said. I was pretty proud of how I played and just how I led the team to a successful season for us.
Finley didnt play tackle football until his freshman year of high school. He played hockey, which Yantis says gave him the toughness he needed, and flag football.
A friend brought Finley to quarterback training sessions the summer before his freshman year. Thats when Yantis met him.
He was just skinny, skinny, Yantis said, but he was very coachable Yes sir, no sir. We trained the heck out of him that summer.
Finley became a quarterback. His friend, who wanted the job, became a wide receiver.
And quickly Finley set his sights on Boise State. He attended a game during the 2011 season, when he was still a junior, and made an unofficial visit when the Broncos extended their offer last spring.
Hes been here several times since including for the Broncos high school camp last summer, a game last season and an official visit in December.
I couldnt really stay away, he said. I was just so excited about it. The first few times, my dad came and then my mom wanted to see. Then my brother and sister wanted to come up. They all wanted to have their trip.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,