BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — When the Buffalo Bulls take the field against Northern Illinois on Wednesday for their first game of the 2020 college football season, it’s going to be an especially special moment for one Bull.
“Excitement level? I’d say it’s definitely a 10,” Bulls punter Evan Finegan said.
In just the second game of the 2019 season, UB punter Evan Finegan broke his tibia and fibula when a Penn State defender’s body connected with his punting leg during the third quarter of the game against the Nittany Lions. Finegan was rushed to the hospital, where he underwent surgery that night.
The injury ended his sophomore season, and from that moment on, he spent the next few months determined to get back to the field.
“This last year has been really interesting, to say the least. It’s been over a year now, hurting it early September. It was pretty scary, this was my first time actually breaking a bone other than a finger or something, this was my first major injury, so it was a battle not knowing if I was going to be able to play again and stuff like that,” Finegan said. “Once I started making progress in that first month or two seeing nice progress, I got some confidence from the doctors and everyone telling me I was going to be alright and would be able to play. It was very encouraging, but it wasn’t easy to say the least.”
After months of rehab, Finegan returned to the sidelines and was able to punt and practice fully during UB’s spring practices this season. The work Finegan has put in to get back to the field for his junior campaign is not lost on his teammates or his coaches.
“It’s truly been amazing just to watch him. The comeback, how quickly he was able to bounce back from it, credit to the doctors and everyone, but most importantly, what an impressive young man,” UB Head Coach Lance Leipold said of Finegan’s progress. “His disposition of handling the situation, his positive attitude as he went through it, then his maturity and leadership within the program has really been an inspiration to a lot of us in the football complex.”
Finegan will make his first collegiate punt for the first time since September 7th on Wednesday. With all of the emotions surrounding it, he says the biggest thing he thinks he will feel when he steps out on the field of play is gratitude.
“I’m very grateful to be back out there spending time with my team and teammates,” Finegan said. “When you’re injured and going through rehab, you’re not spending that time in the locker room a lot with everyone, you kind of have your own schedule, so that’s the thing I missed the most. Being back with my teammates, what a blessing to be back out there. I think we’re going to have a good team this year, it’s exciting on all levels.”
UB kicks off against Northern Illinois on Wednesday at 7 pm.