NORMAN — Roy Finch is a little guy in a big-man's sport.
He even acknowledges it.
Ask many an undersized athlete about being vertically challenged, and they'll look at you like you've inquired about a third arm. What do you mean? Short? Are you serious?
But even though Finch is only 5-foot-7, 170 pounds, the Oklahoma running back is a stand-up guy about his stature.
“I can't change how God has made me, my frame and my height,” he said. “But the things that he's given me, I'm very grateful for. The things that he's given me, I work very hard at (developing).”
The dividends are obvious. Even though he's the Sooners' smallest offensive starter by nearly half a foot, Finch has been big since Dom Whaley went down with a season-ending ankle injury. He has rushed for 418 yards in the past five games, nearly surpassing the 100-yard plateau each of the past three games, and he has a chance to wind up being OU's leading rusher despite playing very sparingly the first half of the season.
Playing this week against an Iowa State defense that allowed only 60 yards rushing against Oklahoma State last week, Finch will need to be bigger than ever.
So, what's it like for a short-and-small tailback in a big-and-tall world?
“I don't really feel like it's different,” Finch said of his college football experience. “Other people might feel like it's different. But I just do what I can.”
What he can do is fun to watch.
Finch spins and swivels, whirls and twirls. Where Whaley was a straight-ahead, knock-you-on-your-tookus runner, Finch is more of a catch-me-if-you-can tailback.
It's one way he uses his size and his stature to his advantage.
“I just try to keep my legs churning,” he said. “Coach emphasizes at practice to get yards after contact and not go down with the first guy. I just try to do that.”
Finch wants to explode through defenders, not let them explode through him.
Sounds serious, right?
For a guy of Finch's size, it sure is. He isn't going to bulldoze a defender. He isn't going to survive that first contact by brute force or sheer might. So, as Finch explains it, he has to beat the defender to the point of attack, getting the would-be-tackler on his toes before he can get his hips under him.
“I try to do that ... because I am a small guy,” Finch said. “Taking punishment throughout a game is not really my style, but if I have to take a couple hits, I feel like I'll be pretty good at that.”
Finch will take hits, but he doesn't necessarily seek them out.
That was evident during back-to-back plays last week against Baylor. Early in the third quarter, Finch caught a short Landry Jones pass, made a nice run up the right sideline, then absolutely smashed helmet-to-helmet into safety K.J. Morton. The next snap, Finch ran the ball to the left for a big 13-yard gain, but as defenders converged, he stepped out of bounds before the contact came.
Could he have gotten another yard or two?
Does someone who is 5-7 have to be mindful of self-preservation sometimes?
Make no mistake — Finch is one tough dude. If he wasn't, he would've left football long ago. He would've found a sport where there aren't any guys chasing you who are a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier.
“You've got 6-3, 6-5 linebackers coming at you trying to take your head off,” Sooner running back Brandon Williams said. “So you've got to have that it about you — ‘I'm the best and ain't nobody going to take me down.' You've got to have a little more attitude than a bigger guy.”
“Yeah,” Williams said, “he does.”
No wonder the Sooners have dubbed him “Mighty Mouse.”
“I take that name as a compliment,” Finch said.
As well he should.