“It was really after September 11th that I really grew in love with the actual job itself because I saw those guys dedication and I needed something to coincide with football,” said Finnegan. “I guess running through a burning building, that adrenaline pumping (and) saving somebody’s life was just something I look(ed) forward to doing.”
For now, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound DB will have to settle for trying to crack the starting lineup in the NFL.
A task that gets considerably tougher with each passing day.
In 2006, the Titans were among the worst in the league in total defense. Their passing defense didn’t fare much better, finishing 23rd overall in 2007; the lowest such marks since Fisher is considered by many among the best defensive minds in the game, he assumed full-time head coaching duties in 1995 and among the worst in franchise history.
To find the last time the team was this bad defensively, one must go back to the 1982 season under Ed Biles. Biles lasted a little more than two full seasons, finished with an unceremonious 8-23 overall record and was replaced six games into the 1983 season by interim head coach Chuck Studley.
Vowing immediate changes to its suspect defense, first year G.M. Mike Reinfeldt and Fisher have acted quickly to shore up a struggling secondary. Last March, the Titans took a huge first step, acquiring veteran SS Chris Hope from the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. The move paid off. Hope recorded 89 tackles, 15 pass deflections, five interceptions and one fumble recovery.
The trend continued this off-season when Tennessee acquired six-year veteran DB Nick Harper from divisional rival Indianapolis. Harper, like Hope arrived in Nashville fresh off a Super Bowl win.
An unrestricted free-agent Harper, the Colts top-rated CB, coupled with the selection of versatile SS Michael Griffin in this year’s draft and the acquisition of CB Kelly Herndon from Seattle last week clearly demonstrates the team’s commitment to bolstering its defense, specifically it’s secondary. It also makes starting, or even playing substantially, a much tougher prospect than it was only months ago.
That’s fine, Cortland Finnegan is used to having to prove himself.
Coming out of tiny Samford University, a small, Division I-AA Baptist college in Birmingham, Alabama. He was inundated with critics who said his size, as well as, the level of competition he faced in college simply would not translate to the NFL after the Titans selected him in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
Diminutive by today’s NFL standards, Finnegan was much smaller coming out of Florida’s Milton High School. A fact not lost on many big-time Division I-A recruiters who steered clear of him because of stature. At Samford, Finnegan earned All-Conference and All-America selections during an illustrious four-year career.
“I ran it as far as I could and wound up being in the NFL today,” he says. “It’s a dream come true.”
Despite the increased competition at his position heading into the 2007 season Finnegan’s priorities have not changed.
“Start,” he quipped quickly when asked his no.1 goal for this season. “That’s one of the things I’ve worked hard at this off-season ands that’s one of the goals I’m definitely trying to attain; to start at CB. I guess we’ll see at training camp and may the best man win.”
Cortland Finnegan is used to having to prove himself. He did it in high school and again in college. Now he’s got to do it once again in the NFL.