When the players who beat the odds to make the Tennessee Titans’ initial roster found out Saturday, they had made the 53-man squad to open the regular season, there were feelings of joy, likely followed by calls to mom or dad to celebrate the good news.
However, for rookie linebacker Sharif Finch, there was no call home on Saturday, but he still knew his parents were proud of his accomplishment.
Finch, an undrafted rookie linebacker from Temple, had to leave Titans camp at one point for a few days because of the death of his father, Gregory, on July 30, just four days after training camp began. That heartbreaking news for Finch came just two years after he lost his mother Wendy to cancer.
For Finch, his parents were not there physically to share his moment of triumph with him, but he definitely felt like they were there with him spiritually.
“You know, it’s been a roller coaster emotionally, but, man, it’s a blessing, having an opportunity to play with my teammates and being a part of this roster. I can’t even describe it. I was elated and just excited to be getting an opportunity to play,” Finch said. “No doubt, I feel like my mom and pop were up there looking down on me and helping me to get this opportunity.”
Titans general manager Jon Robinson credited Finch with being able to stay the course in the face of adversity.
"I've talked to Sharif several times. I've got a good relationship with him. He's a good young man," Robinson said. "To be able to overcome some of those things, I think, speaks to his mental toughness and his ability to push through and chase this dream that he has to play professional football."
Finch was one of four undrafted rookies who made the 53-man roster to help supplement a small draft class that had only four picks (three of whom are on the roster). Finch, receiver Cameron Batson, guard Aaron Stinnie and defensive lineman Matt Dickerson are on the roster, along with draft picks Rashaan Evans, Harold Landry and Dane Cruikshank. Also, long shots like cornerback Kenneth Durden, receiver Darius Jennings and tight end Anthony Firkser made the roster as well.
For all of them, realizing their NFL dreams proved to be an emotional moment.
“As soon as I got the news, I hopped on the phone and called my family. There were a lot of good emotions going on there,” Stinnie said. “It was an amazing feeling and experience. Once I got that call, I was overcome with emotion. I was able to call my family and tell them that I succeeded on the opportunity I was given.”
Added Batson, who could have a role as the Titans kickoff returner this season, “It was everything I’ve dreamed of. God is amazing. Without Him, this would not have been possible.”
Dickerson said that throughout the process he knew he could not afford any letdowns.
“It’s definitely an every day thing You’ve got to be at your best every day and treat every day like it’s game day,” the former UCLA standout said.