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College QB found dead; disappeared during fishing trip

Posted at 9:51 AM, May 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-29 09:51:07-04

By Karan Olson and Greg Botelho

(CNN) — A former star college quarterback was found dead in northern Michigan on Tuesday night, two days after he went missing while on a fishing excursion, his former university said.

Grand Valley State University tweeted around 9:15 p.m. (10:15 p.m. ET) Tuesday that the body of Cullen Finnerty had been found near Baldwin, Michigan. This came after an intensive search by police, firefighters and ex-teammates on Tuesday.

“The Grand Valley community is saddened to learn of the death of former Laker quarterback Cullen Finnerty,” the school said.

Finnerty, who spent time with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, set off Sunday to fish in Lake County — which is between Traverse City and Grand Rapids — but hadn’t been heard from since, Sheriff Robert Hilts said Tuesday.

A flier posted on indicated Finnerty was last heard from Sunday evening. The family of the ex-football standout has a cabin close to a campground near where he disappeared.

The only solid lead on Finnerty’s whereabouts had been the discovery of a small pontoon boat he had been using in Bray Creek, near the Baldwin River, Hilts said. Video from CNN affiliate WTOM showed the boat perched on the waterway’s rocky shore.

No foul play was suspected in the 30-year-old’s disappearance, the sheriff said before Finnerty’s body was found.

Searchers — including members of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, area fire departments and state police — worked with Finnerty’s family to coordinate resources.

They were joined by alumni including former football players, current students and staff at Grand Valley State University, where Finnerty starred in football between 2003 and 2006. The school is just west of Grand Rapids.

Head football coach Matt Mitchell said Lakers players also joined the hunt on Tuesday.

“He’s a big character kid and had a lot of friendships,” Mitchell said in a video posted on Grand Valley State’s website. “I think that’s the only reason why so many people are coming to his aid.”

The Brighton, Michigan, native played four seasons at Grand Valley State, which traditionally has one of the premier programs in Division II college football.

Finnerty compiled a 36-4 record in his time at the school, winning national championships in three seasons. (His first coach there was Brian Kelly, who now coaches at Notre Dame.)

According to a news release after the Lakers’ 17-14 championship win, he ended his collegiate career having won 28 straight games and having been ranked No. 1 in 23 consecutive polls of Division II football., a website focused on Division II football, named Finnerty its player of the decade for the 2000s.

After his graduation, he joined the Ravens. Finnerty never got into a regular season game, though — as the Baltimore Sun reported — he was called up from the practice squad and put on the Ravens’ active roster in December 2007. The Denver Post reported Finnerty was briefly with the Denver Broncos the next year.

Finnerty was married with two young children, Grand Valley State assistant football coach Jim Schaak, who was among those taking part in Tuesday’s search, told WTOM.

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