The Mysterious Death of Cullen Finnerty

Allison Joyce

On May 26, former Baltimore Raven Cullen Finnerty went missing while on a fishing trip on the Baldwin River in Michigan. Two days later his body was found dead, with no bruises or marks.

You probably haven't heard of Cullen Finnerty before . The Ravens signed him as an undrafted free agent quarterback in 2008, released him in July, before the preseason, but then re-signed him to the practice squad during the regular season. He never saw the field as a professional player and would go on to spend the following years playing arena football.

Finnerty's name has gained significant coverage over the past couple weeks due to his strange disappearance and subsequent death in the woods of Western Michigan. After he did not return from a Memorial Day weekend fishing trip, friends and family joined local authorities in an extensive search to find him. Over 100 people volunteered to search for Cullen in the dense woods near Baldwin, Michigan. Two days later he was found dead near a busy road.

Cullen's initial autopsy was inconclusive and the initial toxicology report negative, meaning substance abuse was not the cause of his death. There were no bruises, marks, or injuries evident either. What is equally bizarre is that Cullen's fishing boat was still docked in the water, and his camp set up as if he had never left it. His last phone calls before his death comprised of him calling his brother in distress; he said he didn't know where he was and felt he was being followed.

Cullen was a standout Division II quarterback at Grand Valley State University, where he led his team to 3 championships and went undefeated his last two seasons. He was hugely popular among the local community, and is remembered as a lovable, compassionate man who held the utmost love and respect for his family and friends. For this reason, hundreds of locals did not hesitate to volunteer in joining the search party when Cullen disappeared.

Naturally, all signs point to football as the cause of Cullen's death. His playing style was always physical and aggressive. At 6' 3" 235 lb, Cullen was big for his position. He had broad shoulders and a bulky frame which made him look more like a linebacker than a quarterback. He loved hitting and even getting hit. Unfortunately, this resulted in numerous concussions throughout his football career. His brother Matthew speculates that Cullen suffered as many as dozens of serious concussions in his life. Cullen's brain is being researched by Brown University, in an effort to see if any further findings can solve the mystery of his death.

Those close to Cullen vehemently deny that football caused his death and strange behavior in the weeks leading up to the fishing trip. They believe football made Cullen into the accomplished man he was, and refuse to believe that this incident could be compared with the death of, say, Junior Seau. In the meantime, we are left to speculate as to what exactly was going wrong inside Cullen's brain. Could this be another case of a football player who was corrupted by the intensely physical effects of the sport we all love so much?

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