In 2013, tight end Jermichael Finley’s bruised spinal cord left him temporarily paralyzed. The head-on hit ended the former Longhorn’s NFL career, but his life was just beginning.
“I felt like I was going to get injured before it happened,” Finley said. “Then I was on the ground, and I thought, ‘I really can’t move.’ It was like my whole body was in shock.”
Shawn Hennessy, Finley’s pastor in Green Bay, remembers the community’s response. The Life Church pastor offers religious guidance for many Green Bay Packers. Upon seeing Finley’s injury, Hennessy feared its effect.
“Our community was scared he wouldn’t walk again,” Hennessy said.
Shortly after the injury, Finley received spinal fusion surgery at a local hospital. A smooth recovery left him with no physical limitations. He was cleared to play again, but Finley decided to hang up his cleats to become more involved in his sons’ lives.
“It was a great run,” Finley said. “I had a lot of fun. I got the financial help that I needed out of it, and now I want to take care of my kids and just enjoy life.”
Hennessy said the injury showed Finley’s family and friends his character.
“There is a time in your life when you are tested,” Hennessy said. “We all knew [Finley] was a dominant football player, but the injury showed who he was as a human, husband and father. He stepped up his level of integrity and became a better person.”
Finley returned to Texas looking for a community to raise his sons Kaydon and London. He came across Aledo, Texas, just 20 minutes from his wife’s family in Weatherford. The Finleys moved to Aledo in July, and his wife gave birth to a third son, Hilton, in October.
Finley quickly blended in with Aledo’s football-dominant culture. He coaches Kaydon’s second-grade pee-wee football team, leading them to the league’s championship this year.
Finley now wishes to complete his degree at either Texas or TCU, hoping to establish a D1 Performance Training Facility in Aledo. D1 partners with athletes, such as NFL stars Peyton Manning, Ndamukong Suh and Jason Witten, to offer customized workouts, boot camps and sports rehabilitation to athletes across the country.
Finley’s future is far brighter than it looked during his 2013 spell of paralysis. Now, he says he has no physical limitations.
“I feel stronger than ever,” he said.