Stampeder returner Roy Finch overcomes ADD, suspension to post record season

Tackling his attention deficit disorder initially cost Roy Finch yards on the football field.

The Calgary Stampeders running back says managing the condition is a factor behind his record-setting season, however.

With a CFL-leading 1,009 punt return yards, Finch has already surpassed the franchise high of 993 he posted in 2016.

Many times this season, Calgary’s offence has turned the advantageous field position Finch provides into touchdowns and field goals.

A case in point was a 66-yard return Saturday against the B.C. Lions to set up a fourth-quarter touchdown.

The University of Oklahoma Sooners alumnus has returned punts for touchdowns from 90, 97 and 103 yards this season. He’s tied with William Hampton (1999) for the most in a Stampeders season at three.

With six games remaining in the regular season, including Sunday’s road game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Finch is threatening the CFL season record of 1,440 punt return yards set in 1991 by Edmonton’s Henry (Gizmo) Williams.

The elusive five-foot-seven, 165-pound running back would be closer to that record if the CFL hadn’t suspended him for two games this season for a drug violation.

Finch began taking Adderall for attention deficit disorder, but hadn’t cleared it properly with the team.

The result was a positive drug test for an amphetamine and Finch sitting out the second and third games of the season.

Finch says he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder as a child, but with his mother Angel raising five children, the family couldn’t afford to treat it.

Now that he can, Finch says it has made a difference in his life on and off the field.

“It’s helped me a lot since I’ve had it,” Finch said Wednesday. “I would just say I’m more calm (in) my study habits, being locked in on the field a little bit more. It translates not only on the field, but off the field too.”

The 25-year-old from Niceville, Fla., plans to return to Oklahoma in the off-season to take the three classes he needs to complete his communications degree.

“If I was diagnosed early and had my medication earlier in my life, I would have been done school already,” Finch said. “I just didn’t get it done because it was hard for me.”

He says his 100-metre times in high school weren’t that impressive, but where Finch excels is in maintaining speed when he changes direction.

Stampeder special teams coach Mark Killam says Finch and his blockers are more comfortable with, and confident in, each other in Finch’s second season in the league.

“He’s had some big games and obviously he’s hit a couple home runs and those are always good for the numbers,” Killam said.

“He’s got a better understanding of the rules, he’s got a better understanding of how everything happens here, he feels more comfortable in the system and the guys blocking for him are more comfortable with him knowing where he likes to escape to.”

Finch now creates a buzz at McMahon Stadium every time the opposition punts in anticipation a possible juking, deking gallop back to the enemy’s end zone.

Where Finch has improved since his rookie campaign is making enough moves to get into the open, but not so many that the opposition has time to catch up to him, Killam said.

Also, the Stampeders signed kicker David Deschamps to the practice roster Wednesday. Head coach Dave Dickenson said Rene Paredes “has a little tweak.”

Running back Jerome Messam didn’t practice, but Dickenson said the CFL’s leading rusher did not suffer a concussion when Lions linebacker Micah Awe’s helmet collided with the back of Messam’s Saturday.

“He cut his lip and he had a neck injury,” Dickenson said. “The doctors (said) not a concussion. I do know it was a big hit though and I know he’s sore.”

The CFL slapped Awe with the maximum fine Wednesday for leading with the crown of his helmet in hits on both Messam and Finch on Saturday. The league did not disclose the dollar amount.