Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler were killed in a single car accident on July 23rd while returning from a kicking camp in Wisconsin. On Saturday during their 43-10 win over Fresno State in the season opener, the Cornhuskers honored Foltz by not sending out a punter for their first fourth down of the game. Nebraska head coach Mike Riley joined The Jim Rome Show on Tuesday and talked about the tribute to their former punter and how his death impacted the entire state.
“There were so many people that had thoughts about that. It was just, tragic was an understatement, but it kind of rocked the state,” Riley said. “Lots of people had ideas, and I don’t remember where I might have heard it first, but Drew Brown our kicker, who was always in Sam’s hip pocket. They were great friends. He was up in Wisconsin when the event occurred, and Drew mentioned it to me and I said let’s do it.
“And so we just kind of talked about it once in a while leading to it. I got to say that it was a Nebraska thing with our fans and how close they are with this team, and the Foltz family being there, and I got to say, Fresno State and their participation in it and Tim DeRuyter and their whole group, I appreciated how they handled it. And it was, like I said, it was kind of tribute from the state to the family, and it was another for me I’m still learning, right, another trademark of what this place is about.”
Although Foltz had been with the Nebraska program a few years before Riley accepted the head coaching position, the 63-year-old said Foltz left a lasting impression on him and anyone who knew him.
“He was one of those guys, that is an every guy’s guy,” Riley said. “I told the team what I’m going to take from Sam and try to be like him. Every day he brought such enthusiasm to this team and whether it was lifting weights with him, running with him, and then he was the punter, kind of unique for a specialist to have that kind of impact on a whole group. He was that guy, and he was the perfect Nebraska guy. He grew up, he was the all-state safety, he was the leading touchdown receiver guy his senior year, he was the receiver for our backup quarterback Ryker Fyfe and actually ran the 400 [meter] in 48 [seconds] flat. He was an athlete.
“He was going to punt for 15 years in the NFL. He was tremendously talented and worked at it really hard and everybody loved this guy.”
Starting his second season in Lincoln, Riley talked about what it’s been like coaching at a university with such great tradition and a diehard fan base.
“I guess there is a reputation there and those of us that are football people know about that, but being in the middle of it has been fun,” Riley said. “They love their team. It’s kind of a throwback place, and the family values, the importance for kids and programs. When we go through our tunnel walk before the game, it’s probably 90 percent young kids. The atmosphere at the games is unique, it’s a great event all the time, and they’re so loyal and passionate that I think that in itself, I don’t think you really get it until you’re right in the middle of it.”