Hearing the sad news Tuesday night that former Ravens reserve quarterback Cullen Finnerty had been found dead in a Michigan campground brought back a few memories.
It had admittedly been a long time since I had thought about Finnerty, a promising camp arm from Grand Valley State who was active for two games during the 2007 season when starter Kyle Boller had suffered a major concussion.
Finnerty had beaten extremely long odds to make it to the NFL as a former Division II All-American who went 51-4 in college and won three national championships while passing for 10,905 yards and 110 touchdowns and running for another 31 scores.
It was a thrill for him to even back up Troy Smith against the Seattle Seahawks late in the 2007 season when Boller was declared out because of lingering effects from a concussion.
His enthusiasm was obvious. It was a cool story to write about someone so unjaded.
"I never thought I would be in this situation," Finnerty said at the time. "It’s pretty crazy, but it’s fun. I’ve been hitting the books hard all week so I can be ready in case they need me."
They didn't, but it didn't faze Finnerty.
Although Finnerty never got into an NFL game with the Ravens or the following year with the Denver Broncos, it was obviously special for him to even get to that point after going undrafted out of Grand Valley State and being cut by the Ravens before training camp.
You could tell how much it meant to Finnerty just to be on the team, and he seemed like a great guy who was truly appreciative of the opportunity.
Signed to a contract after participating in the Ravens' rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, Finnerty worked hard and he made progress under the tutelage of former Ravens coach Brian Billick.
Finnerty was a good athlete, a 6-foot-2, 224-pounder who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times.
Billick was enthusiastic about Finnerty's potential and willingness to learn.
Now he's gone at age 30 and survived by a wife and two children.
After a lengthy search following his disappearance that included volunteers from the Grand Valley State football team, Finnerty's body was discovered.
Reports out of Michigan indicated that family members told authorities that Finnerty might have been dealing with stress or paranoia prior to his death with no foul play suspected.
An autopsy will be conducted for Finnerty, who, after his brief NFL career ended, played in a European league and later with the Muskegon Thunder in the Indoor Football League before becoming a high school assistant coach.
It's another sad story about a name from the past, leaving those close to him wondering what happened.
Condolences to his family and friends.
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