Detroit King's Dequan Finn prepared for everything — except becoming the 11th winner of the State Champs! Mr. Football award
SOUTHFIELD — Maybe the first football-related thing that Dequan Finn wasn’t fully prepared for in his life was stepping into the studio at the State Champs! Network headquarters, and realizing that he’d just been blitzed.
Told by his coach that they was coming to attend some sort of vague all-state selection function, the Detroit Martin Luther King quarterback was completely flummoxed some of the room’s recognizable occupants, including Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay, as well as a recognizable piece of hardware, the Hungry Howie’s State Champs! Michigan High School Mr. Football trophy.
“My coach just said, ‘Be ready, we’re going somewhere.’ I asked him where, and he didn’t tell me. He said, ‘Just be ready.’ This is a shocker,” Finn said with a grin, after Slay made the trophy presentation to Finn. “I saw a whole bunch of people, Darius Slay, everybody smiling. I just saw the Mr. Football trophy, and said ‘I know this isn’t what I think it is.’ It’s just a great feeling. I’m just real happy right now.”
Finn becomes the 11th recipient of the award, and the second from King, since it began in 2008. Donnie Corley won the award in 2015.
“I’m happy right now. I’m just excited. Knowing all the hard work that I did, staying up until about 1 o’clock in the morning, doing three-step drops, five-step drops, play-action passes. Just looking at coverages,” Finn said. “Nothing has ever been given to me in my life, and knowing that I earned this trophy, it means a lot. I’m very thankful.”
The award capped a brilliant career at King for Finn, in which he went 35-6 as the starting quarterback, winning a pair of state titles, one as a sophomore and one as a senior, last weekend.
His senior season stat line read like video-game numbers: 109 of 185 passing for 2,109 yards, 26 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, as well as 1,307 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns.
The best may have been his last, when he threw for 173 yards and four touchdowns against top-ranked Muskegon in last weekend’s Division 3 title game, adding 73 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“I’m probably going to remember the Muskegon game. I’ll remember the (Indianapolis) Cathedral game (in 2017). That was the game, so 10th grade, we win the championship, and then he comes back from track season, and everything, and it’s just like, ‘Woah, who is this guy?’ Faster, stronger,” said King coach Tyrone Spencer. “Got some great memories. There’ve been ups and downs, highs and lows. But he’s been able to persevere through them all, and it’s been great.”
Muskegon junior quarterback Cameron Martinez, Detroit Cass Tech senior running back Jaren Mangham and Madison Heights Madison senior quarterback Austin Brown were finalists. River Rouge senior athlete Daraun McKinney, Holland West Ottawa senior quarterback Isaac Van Dyke, Belleville senior WR/DB Julian Barnett, Farmington Hills Harrison RB/CB Roderick Heard, Muskegon Mona Shores running back Sincer’e Dent and Canton senior running back Steven Walker were the other candidates in the top 10.
The Crusaders coaching staff first got a glimpse of Finn when he was playing youth football, and hoped he’d eventually end up in their building.
“The first time we saw Dequan, they were playing on our field. We were like ‘Man, who is this guy?’ He could throw, you could tell he was a leader out there,” Spencer said. “He just … he didn’t come (to King). He went somewhere else. I guess it just didn’t work out, and all of a sudden, you see this guy walking in the building, like ‘He looks familiar. Oh, that was the quarterback kid that we saw.’ We had another quarterback at the time, El Julian Jordan, who was really good, and man — it’s just funny how things work. El Julian, he left the building, and Dequan was just kinda there. It’s amazing how he developed, and turned into this great quarterback.”
One person not shocked about how Dequan Finn turned into a great quarterback is his father, Eric.
“Dequan has been (preparing for this), since the age of 1, I gave him a football. At the age of 3, he was running three plays. I named them ‘No. 1,’ ‘No. 2’ and ‘No. 3.’ A running play, play-action, and a pass play,” Eric Finn said. “Real adamant about this thing here. Pushed for it real hard. He’s always been that kind of kid — not liked the game, he loved the game. At a young age.”
That made it easier for the elder Finn to think up punishments, when they were rarely needed.
“I remember he was about 5, and he came home with a D. I made him grab his equipment, throw it in the dumpster and pull it to the curb. Haven’t had a problem with his grades since then,” Eric Finn said. “I’m so proud of him. The hard work he’s putting in every day, getting in at 11, 12 o’clock at night. He’s leaving school, practice, tutor, film study. I’m very proud of him. Great kid.”
That type of dedication makes it easier on a head coach, knowing they don’t have to worry about at least one guy.
“Soooo much (easier). I didn't have to worry about his grades. He was everywhere. You don’t have to say ‘Where is Dequan?’ He’s going to be there. That is, as a coach, you’re just relieved to have a guy that takes it seriously,” Spencer said. “I remember first practice, he was coming with a notebook, trying to write everything down. Student of the game. Always asking for film. ‘Coach, can I get film? I want to study.’”
Of all the things that Dequan Finn has had to work on, maybe becoming a vocal leader was one of the hardest, considering his natural disposition.
“Going into the season, I knew I had to be more vocal, because I’m kind of a quiet guy. I had to be more vocal, because it was my senior year, and there were no other leaders but me,” he said. “All of the guys look up to me. I just had to be that role model, that figure that everybody looked up to. Separated myself from the rest, and stand out from everybody else.”
Finn was committed to Central Michigan University to play football, but that may be a bit in limbo, after the school’s firing of head coach John Bonamego following a 1-11 season. Finn isn’t letting on which way he may go down the road, nor is he necessarily rescinding his word.
“My options may vary, they may not,” he said. “No decision at this point.”
But he did know where the first text message of the evening was going to go.
“My mom,” he grinned. “I know she’s going to be screaming, happy. It’s going to be a big ol’ hug.”
Previous winners of the Michigan Mr. Football Award:
2008 — Torsten Boss, WR, Lowell
2009 — Jason Fracasa, QB, Sterling Heights Stevenson High School
2010 — Tommy Vento, QB/S, Farmington Hills Harrison
2011 — Prescott Line, RB, Oxford
2012 — Mark Chapman, QB/DB/KR, Port Huron
2013 — Travis Smith, QB, Ithaca
2014 — Alex Malzone, QB, Birmingham Brother Rice
2015 — Donnie Corley, WR, Detroit Martin Luther King
2016 — Cody White, WR, Walled Lake Western
2017 — La'Darius Jefferson, QB, Muskegon