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Mitchell said he was “crushed” by Finnerty’s death, especially considering the family he left behind, a wife and two young children.

“It was a pretty quiet bus ride home,” he said.

Finnerty, a star at Brighton High School, accepted an offer to play at the University of Toledo but transferred to Grand Valley after the 2001 season. He briefly was a member of the Baltimore Ravens and later the Denver Broncos but never got a snap.

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.”

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AP reporters Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., and David N. Goodman and Mike Householder in Detroit contributed to this story.