Inside Bachelorette Contestant Michael Nance's Life and Tragic Death: 'He Felt Things Very Deeply'
Michael Nance competed on Emily Maynard's season of The Bachelorette
In many ways, Michael Nance was perfect for reality TV.
The musician was handsome and charming, with a genial on-camera presence. He even had a hook: when he introduced himself to Emily Maynard on season 8 of The Bachelorette, he handed her a guitar pick and told him he was “Music Mike” from Austin, Texas.
When he was on The Bachelorette, Nance, then 26, was working as a rehab counselor — a world he was all too familiar with. During his first episode of the show, he disclosed that he had previously been addicted to prescription pain medication and had been clean for about two years.
“I was addicted to prescription pain medicine. It all starts out fun and then somewhere along the road, it just turned into something else. It’s a vicious cycle and it ate away at me for a long time,” he said on the ABC reality series. “I’m almost two years sober, now, and it’s not that easy — you have to completely change your way of living.”
As it turns out, Nance didn’t win Maynard’s heart; he was eliminated during week 4. While he didn’t get as much airtime as some of the other suitors, he made it halfway through the competition before being denied a rose by Maynard. Clearly disappointed, Nance blinked back tears as he left the show in his limo.
He returned to Austin and continued making music for the next five years. He also worked a series of other jobs: physician recruiter, CrossFit coach and a car salesman. Most recently, he began selling medical devices for a company in Orange County, Florida.
While Nance didn’t keep in close touch with many his Bachelorette cast mates, he was well-liked among the cast and crew. Sean Lowe called him “a sweet man with a kind soul,” while Chris Bukowski said, “he was a gentle man with a huge heart.”
Even Maynard spoke out. “Such a kind heart with so much talent,” she tweeted after she learned about his death. “Sending prayers and love to his family and friends.”
But a Bachelorette source on the show who spoke extensively with Nance after his elimination says that he was overwhelmed by the attention he received after the show.
“He was the type of guy who felt things very deeply,” says the source. “Such a sensitive guy. You’ve got to remember that I met him when he was in his mid 20s, so he was pretty directionless. I don’t know that being on TV gave him any further direction. But he had such a good aura.”
Since his passing, word of Nance’s sudden death has spread around Bachelor nation. PEOPLE has spoken to six former contestants, all of whom have heard varying information about his cause of death.
The 31-year-old was found unresponsive on Monday, and he exhibited no signs of obvious trauma. A spokesperson for the Austin Police Department tells PEOPLE that they will not release the cause or manner of death until all the tests are complete. An autopsy was performed on Tuesday, and the results of toxicology tests will be available in several weeks. Authorities say that there didn’t seem to be any foul play in Nance’s death.
While those close to Nance await answers about his death, they are choosing, instead, to celebrate his life.
“I will always remember my friend Micheal Nance for his kind and fragile soul,” tweeted fellow Bachelorette contestant Arie Luyendyk Jr. “Addiction is a terrible disease, may he finally find peace.”