It’s not the size of the dog – Small Titan Finnegan has plentiful fight supply
Posted: Thursday, April 22, 2010 9:57 pm
Cortland Finnegan readily gave away the secret that helped him earn All-Pro honors in the National Football League.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder,” Finnegan said Wednesday, confirming the widespread theory of how he’d overcome an unimposing physical stature and small-college background to gain NFL stardom as a Tennessee Titans’ cornerback.
“If you’re the smallest guy out there, you have to do something.”
The 5-10, 188-pound Finnegan and secondary teammate Michael Griffin — also a past Pro Bowler — helped make up a Titans contingent that stopped at the Elam Center on the campus of UT Martin as part of the team’s annual caravan through the Mid-South.
Titans’ play-by-play man Mike Keith, network radio Gameday host Larry Stone and team mascot T-Rac were also headliners of a group that entertained more than 650 elementary students from Obion and Henry counties, including youngsters from Black Oak, Lake Road and Hillcrest.
Collectively, Titans personnel delivered a message to students about developing study habits, making good choices and setting goals. The NFL’s “Play 60” theme was also emphasized, encouraging the children to stay healthy by getting daily exercise.
Beforehand, Finnegan — known for his blazing speed and feistiness — who played collegiately at Samford University in Birmingham and once vs. UTM at Hardy Graham Stadium, talked about defying the odds and making it as a seventh round draft choice in 2006.
“You have to do the little things, and I definitely play with a little chip on my shoulder,” the 2008 Pro Bowl pick said. “I’ve had to.
“It was a humbling to be a Pro Bowl player but, at the same time, (you’ve got to feel like) they’re always looking for somebody to replace you. You have to keep working hard.”
Finnegan’s on-field passion is matched by a driven nature to do good things away from the game.
Last year he launched his own foundation — ARK 31 — taking the name of the foundation while watching a movie in which the audience is told to change the world “one act of random kindness at a time.”
He’s active, too, in numerous other charitable events involving special needs children, partly driven from his own family’s history.
Finnegan’s older sister, Felicia, had Down Syndrome and died at age 7 from complications with the disorder.
On the field, however, he’s driven by the memories of last season when the Titans were blindsided by an 0-6 start after posting the league’s best record (13-3) in 2008 when he, Griffin and secondary teammate Chris Hope all made the Pro Bowl roster.
“It was the little things (last year),” he said of what ultimately ended up an 8-8 campaign after the team rebounded to win all but two of its remaining 10 games.
“We’ve put in the extra work and, if we can carry that over, I like our chances (this year). On any given Sunday, anything can happen. Last year was proof of that.”
Finnegan — whose jersey No. 31 is now third on the team in sales behind Vince Young (10) and Chris Johnson (28), according to Keith, seemed just as driven Wednesday to please his legions of young fans as he is to making his mark on the field.
“It’s a chance for fans to see us without a helmet on and for us to give back to them a little for all their support,” he said. “The ‘Play 60’ thing is big. We want the kids to be active.”
They could take all take a cue from Finnegan.
Published in The Messenger 4.22.10