Winning play by Titan star

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Shelbyville Central sophomore Savannah O'Neal had lunch, along with a lot of other fans, with Tennessee Titan cornerback Cortland Finnegan on Saturday at a local restaurant after tweeting with fans from Shelbyville the night before. (T-G Photo by Gary Johnson)

There's no doubt that Tennessee Titan cornerback Cortland Finnegan loves Shelbyville.

And for the hundreds of fans who showed up to meet him at a local restaurant on Saturday afternoon, Finnegan is now one of their favorite players, if not their favorite.

Surprise visit

Young Mason Carney and his dad, Josh Carney, spend time with Finnegan. (T-G Photo by Gary Johnson)

The talented Titan decided to visit Shelbyville after a number of die-hard teenage fans were tweeting him Friday night on Twitter.

Finnegan tweeted he'd meet them at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon and by the time he arrived hundreds of fans were waiting.

"I'm just showing love to Shelbyville. I ain't never been to Shelbyville and I've got some friends and kids out here that I just wanted to come and say hello to," Finnegan said.

"I think all of Shelbyville came out. I thought ya'll just had like one Wal-Mart or something like that. This is big time.

"I like Shelbyville. Shelbyville is a good place."

Dream comes true

Shelbyville Central High sophomore Savannah O'Neal and Jovanny Garcia, a Community High graduate and current senior at MTSU, are huge Finnegan fans and frequently tweet him on Twitter.

Both had met Finnegan at special functions before but neither ever imagined what took place on Saturday would have ever happened.

"I was twitting him (Finnegan) on Friday night and Savannah (O'Neal), who is probably a bigger fan than I am, and I were just kidding and joking around and I had told him that he should take her to the prom.

"He said that he couldn't take her to the prom but would come visit us and asked where was a good place to eat in Shelbyville," Garcia said.

"I was kind of shocked but we made plans and he met with us on Saturday. When he tweeted me from the parking lot and told me to come out and get him I knew it was real."

'Happiest day'

To say that O'Neal was excited is a huge understatement.

"That was by far the happiest day of my life and I'll never forget it," she said. "Once he said he was coming, I knew he would show up. I just knew he wouldn't want to let his fans down."

Finnegan said he wanted to get together with fans, considering his future may soon be elsewhere.

"I just love kids in the community, but this was just a spur-of-the-moment kind of deal and what a warm welcome. This being my last year in Tennessee, not knowing my future, this is a chance for me to meet the fans that so gave their all to me," he said.

Fans' voices

O'Neal's tweets were far from the only ones.

"He had heard from several of us from Shelbyville," O'Neal said. "Reed Emerson would always ask him before the game as he was going onto the field when he was coming to Shelbyville and I think Rachel Emerson had talked to him at a Predators game."

After Finnegan left, he twitted, "Shelbyville that's real love. Appreciate the hospitality from everybody. I have to come back again for showing love. Be blessed."

More to come?

Could there be a return visit by Finnegan?

"As he was driving off, he rolled down his window and said that he would take all of us that tweet him out to the bowling alley sometime," Garcia said.

Finnegan is a free agent and his return to the Titans next year is questionable.

When asked if there was still a chance he would remain at Tennessee, he said, "You never know. This day and age it's such a business. I want to be and I love this place but at the end of the day it's just a business."

Respected star

He recently was named the 2011 Titans Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for the second straight year and is now a finalist for the league-wide 2011 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award to be presented during Super Bowl week.

Finnegan, who wears No. 31, has a foundation called The ARK 31 Foundation, which stands for "Acts of Random Kindness," to benefit children with special needs and disabilities.