Cullen Finnerty has been gone nearly five years now.
“It definitely seems like yesterday,” his dad, Tim Finnerty Sr., says about Cullen’s passing. “It’s something that never leaves your mind.”
Now, Finnerty along with Cullen’s friends and the Grand Valley State University community are working to help immortalize him by putting him into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
The organization is letting the public vote on 25 candidates to be considered for the hall in an online vote that ends Sunday.
Finnerty, who was 30 when he died during the 2013 Memorial Day weekend, led Grand Valley to Division II football titles in 2003, 2005 and 2006. He had a record of 51-4 at GVSU, the most victories by a quarterback in NCAA Division II history.
Finnerty starred at Brighton, where he was the quarterback and a kicker, and also played a season with the Baltimore Ravens after college.
During Fonnerty’s career, he worked with CATCH, the charity started by former Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson more than three decades ago.
“The director there, Jim Hughes, got to know Cullen and they became friends,” Tim Finnerty said. “Jim Hughes nominated him for the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.”
After the vote, the MSHOF board will consider the candidates who will make up this year’s induction class, which will be announced later this year.
Asked how many times he voted, Tim Finnerty laughed.
“I just voted once,” he said. “But there have been a lot of Cullen’s friends (who have) I’ve talked to a lot of them, and they’ve kind of jumped on it. Grand Valley posted (a story) on their website and contacted their alumni association. Some of Cullen’s old coaches found out about it and were promoting it. So far, he’s got a lot of backing. It’s pretty exciting.”
One of those former coaches is Jeff Minock, who coached at Brighton during Cullen’s senior season in 2000.
“Cullen Finnerty was probably the best, most tenacious athlete I’ve coached,” Minock said. “He could do it all. He could run, he could throw, he was a leader. An incredible young man to be around.”
Tim Finnerty is grateful his son has the opportunity to receive the honor.
“It was kind of cool, the support from his friends,” he said. “Jim Hughes and some of the other people who were working (at CATCH) and got to know Cullen. It’s really nice what he did.”