Undrafted rookie overcomes losing father to earn Titans’ job

<p>
              FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2018, file photo, Tennessee Titans defensive back Demontre Hurst (20) and linebacker Sharif Finch (56) take the field before a preseason NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in Nashville, Tenn. Sharif Finch has been on a rollercoaster of emotion since his father died July 30 with the undrafted rookie linebacker out of Temple in training camp trying to earn a roster spot with the Tennessee Titans. He attended the funeral, got a sack days later in his first NFL preseason game and now he finds himself one of four undrafted free agent rookies on the Titans' roster for opening week.(AP Photo/James Kenney, File)
            </p>

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Sharif Finch has lived through a roller-coaster of emotions over the past few weeks with the lowest of lows in the death of his father early in training camp, and now the linebacker is enjoying the highest of highs.

The undrafted free agent rookie from Temple has earned a spot on the Tennessee Titans‘ roster .

“It’s something I still have to deal with every day,” Finch said Monday as he sat at a locker with his name taped overhead until a permanent nameplate can be added.

“I just lost my mom a couple years ago and losing my dad … God gives us, what’s the saying? … God gives his toughest battles to the strongest, so I’m just feeling blessed.”

Finch had been in training camp less than a week when his father, Gregory “Sharif” Finch, died at the age of 61. The funeral was Aug. 6, just before the Titans’ preseason opener in Green Bay. Finch attended the funeral with a family that includes his 20 brothers and sisters, and then he made his NFL debut with a sack in the third quarter.

Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen said they had known about Finch’s toughness and the type of young man he is since they signed him. That performance in an emotional week made everyone in the organization happy for Finch.

“It’s not easy to do that,” Bowen said.

Finch is one of four undrafted rookie free agents to make the Titans’ 53-man roster in the final cut-down: offensive lineman Aaron Stinnie, defensive end Matt Dickerson and wide receiver Cameron Batson. The Titans open the season Sunday at Miami.

What the Titans liked when they signed the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Finch in May was his length, power, work ethic and ability to rush the quarterback. A bit raw after starting 25 of 53 games at Temple, but Finch finished his career with 14½ sacks, 32 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and the NCAA career leader with five blocked punts.

The Titans also got to see how Finch handled personal adversity up close. Finch’s mother, Wendy, died of breast cancer in 2015, and that made losing his father to a heart attack even tougher. Titans general manager Jon Robinson said he’s talked with Finch several times and has a good relationship with the 22-year-old linebacker.

“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.”

Once Finch learned he had made the Titans’ roster, spreading the news to his family was easy with a group text before the phone calls poured in.

“They were happy I got this opportunity despite all the things and all the trials and tribulations I had to go through,” Finch said.

Finch, who’s staying in a hotel, still has to find a place to live. He’s also working through an undisclosed injury that kept him out of the preseason finale and practice Monday. He can lean on teammates such as linebacker Jayon Brown as he gets used to being in the NFL. There’s also prayer.

“I pray all the time talking to God and just asking him to help me and guide me through this stressful and long situation …,” Finch said. “But I’m here now, and I’m just ready to get to work.”

Notes: The Titans voted Marcus Mariota and tight end Delanie Walker as offensive captains, defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and linebacker Wesley Woodyard as defensive captains and Daren Bates as special teams captain. … The Titans filled out their practice squad Monday, adding WR Austin Proehl, OL Coleman Shelton, DL Deon Simon and QB Logan Woodside.