Autopsy undetermined after former college football star found dead in Michigan

FILE: Denver Broncos backup quarterback Cullen Finnerty stretches at the team's headquarters in Denver.

FILE: Denver Broncos backup quarterback Cullen Finnerty stretches at the team's headquarters in Denver.  (AP)

A former star college football quarterback was found dead in the woods of Michigan Tuesday, but authorities suspect no foul play and are waiting for the state's medical examiner to announce a cause of death.

Cullen Finnerty, 30, who led Grand Valley State University to three Division II national titles and more than 50 wins during his 4 years as a starter in Allendale, Mich., last decade, vanished Sunday near his family’s cottage in Baldwin.

Finnerty's body was taken to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids for an autopsy on Tuesday night, reports, and authorities had expected its results on Wednesday afternoon.

But Lake County Sheriff Robert Hilts said the autopsy is undetermined, meaning it may take until at least Thursday for the medical examiner to announce a cause of death.

"We were hoping we would be able to find something coronary that might have been the cause, but that's not the case," Hilts told A heart attack has been ruled out, and toxicology testing is now underway.

The body was found about 8 p.m. in woods within a mile of where he disappeared, Lake County Undersheriff Dennis Robinson said.

The search drew scores of police and volunteers, including staff and players from Grand Valley State.

"We were walking a good line," Scott Boyd, who was on the search party that found the body, told the Detroit Free Press. "I squatted down. We had seen some trail. And a girl shouted. She walked right up on it. I thought, 'Oh no.' "

Finnerty was wearing fishing waders and a camouflaged jacket when he was found.

Hilts told WOOD that Finnerty’s body appeared to have no visible injuries.

"There's no wounds that I saw," Hilts said.

Finnerty last spoke to a family member Sunday night in a phone call in which he said "he was nervous about something," Hilts said earlier Tuesday. Based on that call, the family suspected "he might be having some kind of a mental episode -- that he was either afraid or something and ran off into the woods," Hilts added.

The sheriff said authorities had been tracking Finnerty's cellphone "until it went dead." The terrain made the search for the 6-foot-3, 230-pound ex-athlete difficult, Hilts said.

"This is the last river that I'd pick to fish," he said, citing logjams and dense brush around the Baldwin River. "And it's a very tough river to navigate."

Searchers from the sheriff's office, state police and area fire departments fanned out Tuesday across a square-mile area of Webber Township, which is about 65 miles north of Grand Rapids.

In addition, dozens of current and former Grand Valley State players, coaches and staff hopped on a bus and headed north to Lake County to lend a hand in the search effort.

Grand Valley coach Matt Mitchell, who was a defensive assistant when Finnerty led the Lakers to national titles in 2005 and 2006, as well as former Grand Valley coach and current Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin were among those helping out.

Finnerty, who starred at Brighton High School, originally accepted an offer to play at the University of Toledo but transferred to Grand Valley after redshirting in 2001.

The dual-threat QB played for Grand Valley teams that won Division II titles in 2003, 2005 and 2006. He briefly was a member of the Baltimore Ravens and later the Denver Broncos.

Mitchell said Finnerty was "held in very high regard. He was the starting quarterback on national championship teams. But he's more than that: He's one of the most loyal teammates we've ever had."

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was Grand Valley's coach during the 2003 national championship season.

"It's very chilling," Kelly said Tuesday, before Finnerty's body was found. "He led me to a national championship as a true freshman. When I left, coach Martin took over and won two more national championships. My heart goes out to the family and to his beautiful wife."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.