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Samford CB Finnegan One of Top Talents Honored at Banquet
In just three NFL seasons, Milton High graduate Cortland Finnegan has carved his niche. The Tennessee Titans cornerback is widely known for his hard-nosed, scrappy, no-fear style of play.
Off the field and returning home for the Pensacola Sports Association Awards on Friday night, there was a glimpse of the softer side. Finnegan was all smiles when he was named the PSA’s professional co-athlete of the year, one of several athletes honored during the annual event at New World Landing.
“It’s a humbling thing, it’s an honor,” said Finnegan, who shared the pro athlete honor with golfer Boo Weekley. “The guys that came before me to now … I can’t say enough good things about it. I thank the PSA and my coaches at Milton and Samford (University) for molding me, and I’m going to try to continue to give my best.”
Finnegan has been doing that for a while now.
Lightly regarded as a player out of Milton High, Finnegan signed with Division I-AA Samford and impressed enough to become a seventh-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. He made an immediate impact with the Titans and became a full-time starter by 2007.
He reached the pinnacle this past season, being named to his first Pro Bowl.
“It was a great year, we had the best record (in the NFL),” Finnegan said. “But we didn’t win the Super Bowl. Ultimately, it’s a team goal. Until we win one, anything else doesn’t matter.”
Weekley, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, made an indelible mark in 2008 as part of the winning U.S. team in September’s Ryder Cup.
Another duo shared the PSA amateur athlete of the year award — University of West Florida soccer player Shaneka Gordon and FSU kicker/punter Graham Gano. Tying a team-record with 23 goals, Gordon helped the Argos to a 24-1-1 record and its first Division II national championship game appearance. She was named the Division II national player of the year.
Gano, a Tate High graduate, won the Lou Groza Award —given to the nation’s top collegiate kicker — after leading the nation in field goals made (24) and field goal percentage (92.3 pct.).
The surprise of Friday’s function was handed to Chad Gilliland, the chief operations officer for the Andrews Institute. With no prior knowledge of the honor, he was named the PSA’s Sportsman of the Year.
“Well I’ve never been lied to so much,” Gilliland joked. “I was real surprised. This (award) is about a whole bunch of people, our whole team. It was overwhelming, but sports means so much to us, I just hope what I do as my job gives the opportunity to let kids participate.”
Six others were added to the PSA’s Hall of Fame, headlined by 95-year-old Ben McLeod Jr., the oldest living man to play football for the University of Alabama.
Joining him, was Terry Kellen, 82, who founded the Greater Pensacola Ladies Tennis League. What began in 1978 as a small group has grown to more than 1,100 members.
“We started with a few women and a few rules, and now we have a lot of women and a lot of rules,'’ Kellen said, eliciting laughter from the audience as she spoke.
The other hall of fame inductees were brothers Don Caton, Bruce Caton, and Larry Caton, who was inducted posthumously. The Caton trio were all successful tennis players.
“Our parents would have really enjoyed this,'’ said Bruce Caton, choking back emotions as he accepted the trophy.
Completing the six-member class was surfer Yancy Spencer, who started his career one day on Pensacola Beach, and continuing development as a world-class surfer.
Titan’s Finnegan one of many top talents honored at PSA banquet
By D.C. Reeves, The Pensacola News-Journal