NASHVILLE – Sharif Finch had options last May after not being selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.
But after a productive collegiate career at Temple, the imposing edge rusher opted to sign as an undrafted free agent with the Titans. After all, he'd been one of the team's 30 pre-draft visits, and it felt like a good fit.
A year later, Finch looks back and he's happy with his choice. He got an opportunity to play – and contribute – as a rookie after making the team, and he's comfortable with his surroundings.
Meanwhile, the Titans are happy they got him.
"I got an opportunity to be around guys I love to be around," Finch said while on the Titans Caravan on Tuesday. "This locker room is a great thing -- it kind of feels like I am back at home at Temple. I met a lot of great guys, and I got the opportunity to take advantage of it."
Finch was a contributor for the Titans in 2018 after making the team's 53-man roster.
He played in all 15 games, and finished with 22 tackles, two quarterback pressures, two tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks. He was also a contributor on special teams, where he tallied seven tackles.
"It was a great process, just coming in and taking advantage of the opportunities that I was given, that I earned, and just getting better every day," Finch said. "I got an opportunity to get out there and produce in the snaps that I ended up getting, and earning. It was definitely a process, and it was enjoyable."
Finch used the word "earned" multiple times during a five-minute interview.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder knows nothing is given in the NFL, and while he figures to be in a position to make an even bigger impact in 2019, he knows nothing will be given once again. He'll have to earn a roster spot, and playing time.
"Last year was last year," he said. "Having the experience and having the success was great, but I know this is a new year and I know last year doesn't mean anything now. It's about what I do this year, how I work and how I improve. That will ultimately determine my success.
"Whatever role I do earn this year, it's going to be a testament to the work I put in during the offseason and the work I put in during camp. That is when you earn your opportunity. So I am ready to take on the challenge. I have been working all offseason so I am excited to see what I can do."
Finch, who battled through a shoulder injury late in the season and the loss of his father during training camp, said he's willing to put in the work.
After racking up 14.5 sacks, 32 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, five punt blocks and 144 tackles in college, he knows what it's like to be a big difference-maker. He'd like to do even more with the Titans in his second NFL season, but he also knows he'll have to earn his opportunities.
In addition to Finch, edge rushers Harold Landry and Kamalei Correa return, and this offseason the team added veteran Cameron Wake in free agency and D'Andre Walker in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Finch aims to keep improving to give himself a chance. He plans to be more violent with hands while also improving in coverage, among other things.
"Just improving on the little things, improving on everything really," he said. "Improving on my versatility, being great at different things, being a Swiss Army knife for this team, helping wherever I can, whether that be special teams, all the phases of the kicking game or spelling somebody on defense.
"It's about just taking advantage of all my opportunities. I look back and I felt I did OK (last year), but I can improve. There's a lot of plays I can improve. I want to be great, so I will try and improve every day."