Cornerback Cortland Finnegan knows that young players typically don’t become NFL stars overnight. He’s a prime example of it, as the 30-year-old veteran took a little time to get acclimated to life in the league. It wasn’t until his third season that Finnegan really emerged and became one of the league’s most feared defensive backs and an All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection in 2008 for the Tennessee Titans. That didn’t just happen out of nowhere. It took years of hard work and sacrifice, and with the help of some veteran leadership in Nashville, he was able to reach his potential.
Now an old man by NFL standards, Finnegan is looking to fill a role as a member of the older guard as a guy who can teach some of the Dolphins’ young players a thing or two about how to succeed and handle themselves on and off the field.
In an interview with Greg Likens of The Finsiders, Finnegan spoke about wanting to take a leadership role with the Dolphins despite being a fresh face in Miami, and how he hopes to impact this team.
Finnegan wants to become a mentor to younger players in Miami such as Jamar Taylor and Will Davis, and help them progress and grow as both players and people. But he realizes that they also are vying for a job with him, so he sees that he’ll have to strike a balance between competing and mentoring.
“I think you can mentor all the time, but you always want to compete,” Finnegan said. “When they see that you compete at such a level and at such an age, they’ll say you know this is what it’s all about. I think they’ll learn by example. There’s a balance, you’ll find it, but getting to know them is a big thing off the field to see what sparks them and what interests them, and try to use that as motivation for them on the field.”
Finnegan finds himself in a situation similar to that of fellow Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes. Grimes came into last season coming off an injury and trying to get back to the high level he had reached before injuries stifled his growth as a player. Grimes’ first season in Miami was a major success, as he became the Dolphins’ top defensive playmaker and a mentor to some of the younger players. Finnegan wants to emulate the 2013 Pro Bowl selection and follow in his footsteps as a player and leader on this team.
“I’ve got to play good football. (Grimes has) shown that he’s consistent in doing that, and last year I didn’t,”Finnegan said. “But now is a new chapter and I’ve go to come with my A game and bring these young guys along because they’re one play away. Everyone is one play away, and you’re only as good as your backup or those guys behind you. If we can bring those guys along I really feel confident in our football team.”
It’s not going to be easy for Finnegan to accomplish what he wants. But he appears to have the right mindset and motivation to succeed. His motivation is pure competitiveness, and that’s a feeling that can drive anyone better than almost anything else.
“It comes from a love of the game,” Finnegan said. “You sign the big contracts and play a long time, and people sometimes write you off. But I just want to show these guys that it’s about the heart and love of the game. That’s why I started playing, that’s what I’m going to continue to do. Miami gave me the opportunity, the coaches have been great and so I’ve just got to go out and perform on the field and go from there.”
The motivation will become evident in Finnegan’s edgy and feisty style, and he says that he’s back and better than ever, and that the rest of the league won’t know what hit them.
“I’m on my worst behavior, in a modified way,” he said. “So just stay tuned. It won’t hurt the football team by any stretch. But I’m back. I lost that edge, but it’s back, baby. So you know what, stay tuned.”
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