Former GVSU Players Remember Cullen Finnerty

Posted at 7:43 PM, May 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-29 19:43:13-04

ALLENDALE, Mich. — Cullen Finnerty’s accomplishments as a quarterback at Grand Valley State from 2003 to 2006 speak for themselves.

Three Division II national championships – 2003, 2005, and 2006.

His 51-4 record when he left GVSU made him the winningest quarterback in NCAA history – regardless of division.

On Wednesday – just a day after Finnerty’s body was found in the Lake County wilderness – his old teammates recalled what made him more than just big numbers.

“You strip down the pads and you strip down Cullen being a football player, he was just a good guy,” former Laker QB Curt Anes said Wednesday. Anes led GVSU to the 2002 Division II title as a senior – Finnerty’s first year at the school.

Anes remembers the day he heard about Finnerty from Brian Kelly – his coach at GVSU at the time. Kelly is entering his fourth season at Notre Dame.

“I remember Brian Kelly telling me about this stud that was coming from Toledo and transferring in,” Anes said. “He was really held in high regard by Brian, which – anyone who he holds in high regard – you kinda know and you feel like, ‘OK, this guy must be the real deal.”

Brad Iciek was in the same spot as Finnerty during Cullen’s senior year – a freshman quarterback eager to learn from a living folk hero.

“He – for whatever reason – saw me and took me under his wing,” Iciek said. “I owe him so much for the success that I had.”

Blake Smolen caught passes from Iciek for three seasons, but his first year in Allendale was Finnerty’s last under center. Smolen caught his first career touchdown from him.

“He’s gonna live here at Grand Valley forever,” Smolen said. “I mean, the guy is a legend. You can’t say anything else. I mean, the stuff he did here…it hasn’t been done anywhere else in the country at any level.”

Finnerty went missing Sunday night near a family fishing cabin.

Droves of former teammates, family, and friends joined together up north to search for him.

The Kent County Medical Examiner’s autopsy results Wednesday were inconclusive. Investigators have ruled out foul play, and say Finnerty’s death could have been caused by a pre-existing medical condition.

With no answers and with the discovery still fresh, everything is still sinking in.

“It’s so surreal and it’s hard to imagine that this is happening in reality,” Anes said. “Your mind knows it; your heart doesn’t wanna receive it.”

“All I could think about was all the good times we had together – on the field, off the field,” Iciek said. “We can have those memories, but not to make anymore is gonna be very, very difficult.”

Anes got emotional when he spoke of the family Finnerty leaves behind.

“Leaving a family fatherless, it’s just…that’s what rips me up,” he said through tears. “Getting home last night, I’m just hugging my son and telling him how much I love him. Puts things in perspective real quick.”

Finnerty, 30, leaves behind a wife, son, and daughter.