Cullen Finnerty, one of the winningest quarterbacks in college football history, has been missing for days and members of his family are fearing the worst. A Michigan law enforcement official says family members believe he may have suffered “a mental episode.”
Finnerty led Grand Valley State to three Division II national titles and racked up more than 50 wins during his four years as a starter at the school. He went missing on Sunday while fishing on the Baldwin River near where his family owns a cottage.
Finnerty, who is now 30, last talked with family members on Sunday night. During that phone call a family member claims the former quarterback seemed nervous about something and that he might have been having “some kind of mental episode — that he was either afraid or something and ran off into the woods.”
Lake County Sheriff Robert Hilts and other authorities tracked Finnerty’s cellphone until it went dead. They found a small boat Finnerty was using to fish but saw no trace of the 6’3,” 220-pound ex-athlete. Hilts also said the searchers have their work cut out for them because of the rough terrain.
“This is the last river that I’d pick to fish,” Hilts said, referring to frequent logjams and dense brush. “And it’s a very tough river to navigate.”
Searchers have fanned out across a square-mile area of Webber Township, which is about 65 miles north of Grand Rapids. Dozens of current and former Grand Valley State players, coaches and staff hopped on a bus and drove to Lake County to help with the search effort.
Finnerty was a star at Brighton High School and originally attended the University of Toledo before transferring to Grand Valley State and redshirting in 2001. He was a dual-threat quarterback who led the Lakers to Division II titles in 2003, 2005 and 2006. He was also briefly a member of the Baltimore Ravens.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was Grand Valley State’s head coach during the 2003 national championship season. Kelly had the following to say:
“It’s very chilling. He led me to a national championship as a true freshman. When I left, coach (Chuck) Martin took over and won two more national championships. My heart goes out to the family and to his beautiful wife. We’re just praying and hoping and sending all of our thoughts and wishes to their family and hope that this matter resolves in a positive way.”
We echo those thoughts. Here’s hoping Finnerty is found alive and well.