BALDWIN (WWJ/AP) – The body of a missing Grand Valley State University championship quarterback has been found.
Thirty-year-old Cullen Finnerty went missing Sunday night after fishing in the Baldwin area. His body was found in Webber Township, about a mile from where he disappeared, but authorities said no foul play was suspected. An autopsy will be needed to determine how he died.
Lake County Undersheriff Dennis Robinson said the body was not in the water and was found in a wooded area in near the family’s cottage.
Family members told police they dropped Finnerty off with a boat at the Baldwin River on Sunday. After returning from fishing, Finnerty allegedly docked the boat and called his wife.
Finnerty was apparently having what family members described as “an episode,” saying he was scared and wandering through the woods. He said “he was nervous about something,” Sheriff Robert Hilts said earlier Tuesday.
Relatives say Finnerty suffered several concussions in his football career and are concerned that may have triggered this episode.
The sheriff said authorities had been tracking Finnerty’s cellphone “until it went dead.” The terrain made the search for the 6-foot-3, 230-pound ex-athlete difficult, Hilts said.
“This is the last river that I’d pick to fish,” he said, citing logjams and dense brush. “And it’s a very tough river to navigate.”
Searchers from the sheriff’s office, state police and area fire departments fanned out Tuesday across a square-mile area of Webber Township, which is about 65 miles north of Grand Rapids.
In addition, dozens of current and former Grand Valley State players, coaches and staff hopped on a bus and headed north to Lake County to lend a hand in the search effort.
Grand Valley coach Matt Mitchell, who was a defensive assistant when Finnerty led the Lakers to national titles in 2005 and 2006, as well as former Grand Valley coach and current Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin were among those helping out.
Finnerty, who starred at Brighton High School, originally accepted an offer to play at the University of Toledo but transferred to Grand Valley after redshirting in 2001.
The dual-threat QB played for Grand Valley teams that won Division II titles in 2003, 2005 and 2006. He briefly was a member of the Baltimore Ravens and later the Denver Broncos.
Mitchell said Finnerty was “held in very high regard. He was the starting quarterback on national championship teams. But he’s more than that: He’s one of the most loyal teammates we’ve ever had.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was Grand Valley’s coach during the 2003 national championship season.
“It’s very chilling,” Kelly said Tuesday, before Finnerty’s body was found. “He led me to a national championship as a true freshman. When I left, coach Martin took over and won two more national championships. My heart goes out to the family and to his beautiful wife.”
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