Ben Finneseth drew the interest of some of the best colleges in the country for his athleticism and his brain. In the end, the chance to join fellow Durango High School senior Jordan Woolverton at the University of Colorado was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Finneseth signed with the Colorado Buffaloes football team during a National Signing Day ceremony Wednesday at Durango High School. Like Woolverton, the quarterback who signed in December 10 days after the Durango Demons won the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 3A state championship, Finneseth will go to the Colorado campus in Boulder as a preferred walk-on athlete.
“I wanted to play for a big Division I team, and Colorado was my only offer from an FBS school,” Finneseth said. “I am going to trust my skill-set. I’ve been told people have 100% confidence I can earn a scholarship up there, so I’m going to take what I’ve heard and what I trust in my abilities and work toward that.”
Finneseth said he was happy to join Woolverton at Colorado so he could catch passes from his old quarterback. He joked that if he had not signed with the Buffaloes he would have gone somewhere and played safety so he could intercept Woolverton throws, instead.
Both walk-ons, Finneseth said they plan to do whatever work necessary to earn their respect and get on the field together.
“Jordan loves it already and said it’s a great culture with the coaching staff with everyone there ready to compete,” Finneseth said. “I’m glad I get to be part of the legacy of Colorado football. We both are going to have to compete. We are going to get looked down upon being the walk-on guys. But I am looking forward to getting beat up and earning my place.”
An All-State First Team selection in 2020, Finneseth proved to be one of the most valuable players in the entire state during his two upperclassman seasons at DHS. He played all over the field as a senior, from his usual wide receiver position to running back and quarterback. Head coach David Vogt could rely on Finneseth at all three levels of the defense, too. He could rush the quarterback off the edge, play linebacker and shut down the run or the pass and drop back in coverage as a safety.
“For All-State voting, I really thought we should have co-player of the years with him and (Woolverton),” DHS head coach David Vogt said. “No matter where you put him, he was going to run through kids, jump over them and do everything he could to make a play. Nobody can tackle him or out-jump him. If you need a big play, he’s the one who is going to do it.”
During his three-year Durango career, Finneseth tallied 67 receptions for 1,012 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also rushed for 617 yards and nine touchdowns, with 556 yards and eight scores his senior season.
Finneseth had 785 receiving yards on 49 catches as a junior to go with nine touchdowns. During a shortened 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he played in seven games and largely was entrusted with leading the team’s backfield.
The do-it-all threat had a game-changing play in the Class 3A state championship game when he burst through the line, hurdled one tackler, cut around a linebacker and broke through a shoestring tackle attempt by the safety en route to a 55-yard touchdown just before halftime to tie the game at 14-14. DHS would go on to beat Roosevelt 21-14 for its first state title since 1964.
“I will remember that forever. Being a state champion,” Finneseth said.
Defensively, Finneseth totaled 134 tackles in 29 games. He intercepted two passes his senior season.
Finneseth, son of Karyn and Robert Finneseth, came to Durango from Litchfield, Minnesota, after his freshman year and immediately saw the gains of being in the Demons’ program.
“The coaches here and the amount I learned from them and my teammates pushed me to be that much better, and that’s why I am here now signing with a Division I football team,” Finneseth said.
Finneseth grew every year at DHS. He went from 120 pounds as a freshman in Minnesota to a 190-pound force of muscle by his senior year. He also went from 5-foot-11 to 6-2. As a senior, he boasts a 4.05 grade-point average and aims to study biomedical engineering.
Finneseth also drew interest from Stanford and Wake Forest along with Ivy League schools and Colorado School of Mines, one of the nation’s top Division II football programs that offers one of the premier engineering programs. Stanford and Wake Forest had talked to him about earning a walk-on offer, but it never materialized.
“Stanford was the other top one I wanted to go to,” Finneseth said. “Other than that, it was CSU-Pueblo or Mines.”
A tireless worker, Finneseth was on the field for hours each day with Woolverton every day for years. Woolverton reported to the Colorado Buffaloes on Jan. 10 after graduating DHS a semester early so he could begin working with the offense during spring practices. That has left Finneseth to work on his own or get the next generation of Durango quarterbacks to match that effort.
“Having Jordan gone now, it’s been difficult. I’m throwing with freshmen, so I always have to go pick them up to go throw,” Finneseth said. “I am working even harder now, and I am looking forward to getting up there and learning from all the great receivers they have at Colorado once I get there.”