Off the Field : Cortland Finnegan

I have to say that before this E:60 feature, I had a very negative opinion of Cortland Finnegan.

That’s what E:60 does to you. It makes you cry over players you thought you wanted thrown out of the league.

Cortland Finnegan is a well-known troublemaker. He has a reputation for being a dirty player, and you can’t say he hasn’t earned it. In 2010 alone, he threw Steve Smith to the ground by his helmet, hit Chris Kuper after his helmet came off, and got into a now notorious on-field fist fight with Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson. But what really gets under players’ skin is the way he’s incessantly there  – with constant commentary, late jabs that go unseen and uncalled, any physical or mental provocation that can instigate a mistake in the player he’s covering.

And it works. Just ask Josh Morgan.

But there’s more to Finnegan than meets the eye. There must be, since he recently signed a 5 year deal to play for the Rams, recruited by and reunited with his former head coach Jeff Fisher.

E:60, as always, does a great job of showcasing just what that more is:

People, if you didn’t get misty-eyed when Cortland pushed Kelsey through the 5k, your heart might be made of stone. What a genuine gesture of support! I may not agree with his on the field tactics (I saw what he did to Jordy just then!), but off the field? I can get on board with that Cortland Finnegan.

Such a good reminder that there is always more than meets the eye.

Draft Week Film Room : The Journey of a Draft Pick

We’re going to employ a loose interpretation of “film room” today and talk about a guy you’ve probably never heard of who had a rookie season that was equally unheard of. Not many players get drafted high, start their entire rookie season, and then win a Super Bowl. However, that was the case for Kelechi Osemele (nicknamed KO), and so we’re going to take a look at a few videos of his draft journey.

And really, isn’t it high time offensive linemen got a little love?

I think so.


Before the draft, players grind out a 4 month audition process after their college season ends. Between bowl games, all star games, and individual workouts with potential teams, these guys are hustling. Here’s KO during the Senior Bowl, just trying to get a job:


All of the hard work comes to fruition once the draft arrives in April. As we learned on Monday, the war room is where teams make decisions about who to pick. It’s a high-intensity space, even though this peek into the the Ravens war room when they picked KO in the second round seems fairly stable. Maybe GM Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh were giving their collective adrenaline a break:

That’s exciting…but it’s about to get a lot more exciting outside the war room. When a player is surrounded by his closest friends and family and learns he’s going to play in the NFL? It’s going to sound like an air horn went off. No, really, just press play:


During the season, KO played right tackle and started all 16 games. But once fellow lineman Jah Reid got injured, Osemele had to move to left guard during the playoffs – a complete side switch, as well as a position switch. His adaptation and performance during the Super Bowl earned him more than a few recognitions as the unsung hero of the Ravens Super Bowl run.

Not many rookies can say that, especially not many rookies on the offensive line. Way to go, KO!

football, players, osmele

image source

I’m pretty sure all of the rookies in Thursday’s draft would like to sign up for your ride.

Draft Week Profiles : Five Players To Cheer For

I love watching the draft. It’s so powerful to watch the moment when someone realizes that all of the hard work was worth it. Who doesn’t love watching dreams coming true? Plus, with Roger Goodell as commissioner, it’s almost as fun to watch the congratulatory hugs as it is to find out who will be drafted next.

(Drafted later than expected? Not to worry. The intensity and duration of The Goodell Hug increases as the draft goes on, so he’s got your back. Literally.)

But in every draft, there are a few players who inspire you to cheer a little louder. I’m sure there are more great guys out there with great stories, but these five come to mind (as well as the aforementioned Walter Stewart) as players to feel good about rooting for come draft day.

Shariff Floyd
Position: Defensive Tackle
School: Florida
Projected Round: First

D.J. Hayden
Position: Cornerback
School: Houston
Projected Round: First

Rex Burkhead
Position: Running Back
School: Nebraska
Projected Round: Late (5-7)

Marcus Lattimore
Position: Running Back
School: South Carolina
Projected Round: Mid (3-5)

Jarvis Jones
Position: Outside Linebacker
School: Georgia
Projected Round: First

Off the Field : Alex Smith

Alex Smith is a class act on and off the field. I can't wait for you to read his story today!Alex Smith was the subject of the biggest quarterback controversy that no one saw coming when he was seamlessly replaced by Colin Kaepernick in the midst of the 49ers Super Bowl season. As with everything he’s endured during his tenure in San Francisco, he handled the situation with class and grace – even going so far as to coach Kaepernick himself – and has since been awarded the starting quarterback job with the rebuilding Kansas City Chiefs. Anyone who has watched the collective story of the Chiefs unfold over the past few years can only wish the best for Alex Smith, Andy Reid, and the entire organization as they embark on a new era.

A rather tumultuous existence on the field never stopped Alex from helping kids with tumultuous lives off the field, however. I first learned of Alex’s foundation back in 2009 when I read Between Sundays by Karen Kingsbury, a book about an NFL player who has his life changed by working with the foster care system. Alex wrote the foreword to the book and also assisted with information about life inside the NFL, as well as life for kids inside the foster care system.

He’s not well-informed about the foster care system because he had been forced to live through it as a child; he’s well-informed about the foster care system because he chose to learn about it and stand alongside kids in need of support as an adult. In 2005, after a visit to a residential school for foster care children in San Diego, Smith decided to pour his own money into the Alex Smith Foundation, which equips teens who are graduating out of the foster care system with long-term financial support to attend San Diego State University. As per the Foundations website, “by providing five-year scholarships, year round housing and extensive individual guidance and support, the Guardian scholars program provides the opportunity to change individual lives, realize true independence and reach their full potential.” Twenty-three out of the thirty total scholars who’ve been admitted entrance into the program have graduated successfully and are living markedly different lives than they would have ever had the opportunity to live otherwise.

The Foundation was recently honored for it’s success, especially in the way of financial integrity, by the Boston Globe:

[quote]Nonprofit specialists say a charitable foundation should funnel a minimum of 65 to 75 percent of proceeds to its cause. Of the 50 foundations the Globe examined, nearly half fell short of that standard. Meanwhile, Smith’s foundation spent 91 percent of its funds on its mission from 2008 to 2010, the time period from which the Globe examined IRS filings. A primary reason is because Smith has provided much of the funding.[/quote]

Aside from donating a substantial amount of money, Smith also donates his time, pouring mentorship into the lives of the Foundation’s youth and traveling to speaking engagements to lobby on behalf of needed changes in the foster care system nationwide. Marquis Blount, a scholarship recipient, said of Smith’s devotion, “That blew me away […] It was amazing to see when he had time off that he was a part of the program. He was like an older brother, making sure we were doing OK.”

Kansas City, you deserve a great man leading your team, and you sure are getting one. Thanks for all you do, Alex!

Off the Field : Marcus Lattimore

I’m not sure there is a person with a pulse who isn’t rooting for Marcus Lattimore. The junior running back from the University of South Carolina is currently preparing for the NFL Draft; it’s a day that had the chance of never arriving for Lattimore after two seasons of gruesome knee injuries that probably should have ended his career.

If you’re at all squeamish, consider yourself warned:

All of the hard work that Marcus has been putting into recovery was rewarded last Wednesday. There wasn’t a team in the NFL that wasn’t in attendance to see what he could pull off less than 6 months after having his knee flung around like a piece of spaghetti.

He put on quite a showing, that’s for sure. Those who watched were so inspired by his success that they gave him a round of applause and a standing ovation after his workout. That’s something you definitely don’t see everyday from heard-nosed NFL scouts.

If you’ve never seen a pro day before, or you need any measure of life inspiration, watch this video of South Carolina’s pro day. Aside from seeing Lattimore’s otherworldly performance, if you watch to the end you’ll also see a catch you’ve never seen before. Guaranteed.

(Isn’t that amazing?! Good work, South Carolina – whoever created this video is phenomenal. I don’t think I’ve ever been so compelled by footage of a kicker on a pro day. Seriously, that was incredibly well done!)

During his interviews afterward, Lattimore said the following of his road to recovery:

“I want to be an inspiration, to let people know that with hard work, and when you trust in God, you can come back from anything and do anything.”

I think we can safely say that mission was accomplished.

Off the Field : Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers isn’t just my favorite quarterback on the field, he’s also my (totally unbiased) favorite off the field, too. He’s not a fanfare guy and is probably the only high-profile quarterback who doesn’t have his own website, but chooses instead to quietly helps people behind the scenes.

One outreach initiative he’s been involved with recently is the It’s Aaron series for the MACC Fund. The Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer was founded in 1976 to provide funding for scientific research. Besides significantly contributing to groundbreaking research that helps kids every day, they also go above and beyond to make families feel supported while battling cancer through a variety of special events and fundraising initiatives.

I’m going to stop writing so that you can start watching, but I really have to implore you to watch all three videos. I’ve seen them all so many times but without fail, I always burst into tears as soon as the kids open their front door, completely unsuspecting, to see Aaron Rodgers standing on their front step.

It’s so wonderful.