All Points West: Husker nation suffers loss
     2016-07-29      By Frank Marquez    editor@geringcitizen.com
Sam Foltz was going to be a senior at the University of Nebraska. This was going to be the season the Huskers were glad to have the powerful punter’s leg, adding key and returning pieces to the roster. The perfect storm of Coach Mike Riley ironing wrinkles in his second season, a young crop of prized recruits coming in, and guys like junior wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El returning to health. The season holds promise, with gridiron experts and prognosticators saying the Huskers have a good chance of finishing second in the West Division, and possibly battling it out with rival Iowa in a neck-and-neck down the stretch. Sadly, Sam will not be on the field.

In the recent updated NU Football Bio, Sam was listed as a preseason candidate for the Ray Guy Award, and was expected to be one of the nation’s top punters in 2016 before he tragically lost his life in a car crash on July 23. The 2015 Eddelman-Fields Big Ten Punter of the Year, died after attending a kicking camp near Waukesha, Wisconsin. The 6-foot-2, 205 pound Foltz, and native of Greeley, Nebraska, was just 22-years old. He was on course for a long life of football if he so chose, quite possibly a promising prospect for the NFL.

Among highlights, playing at Grand Island High School, he helped the Islanders to a 9-2 record and a trip to the Class A quarterfinals as a senior. He played with fellow Husker quarterback Ryker Fyfe as his go-to receiver. Foltz hauled in 39 passes for 686 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. He was named to the Lincoln Journal Star Super State team as a senior punter.

At Nebraska, Foltz held a steady average. He recorded 41.6 yards per punt his freshman year, 42.2 yards his sophomore year – that season he was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against McNeese State – and 44.1 yards last season as a junior. His longest last season was a 67-yarder against BYU in the home opener.

The website huskers.com has more information about Sam’s accomplishments, a bright flame for such a short time. In fact, too short. He joins fellow Husker Brook Berringer as a talented young man who was taken from us too soon.

Berringer, who played a memorable 1994 season replacing an injured Tommie Frazier at quarterback, keeping Nebraska in the thick of things eventually helping the Huskers win a National Championship over the Miami Hurricanes, died in a plane crash on April 18, 1996, two days before the NFL draft, when his Piper Cub went down in an alfalfa field near Raymond, Nebraska.

Husker nation weeps yet again. Nebraska stayed away from the Big Ten Media Day on Tuesday, July 26, to mourn Sam. There were 13 of the 14 schools in attendance, including Michigan State, which also suffered a painful loss. Spartan punter Mike Sadler, along with LSU’s kicker Colby Delahoussaye died in the same car crash. MSU Coach Mark Dantonio briefly and poignantly offered condolences to the families of Sadler and Foltz.

Huskers Illustrated Michael Bruntz reported how Coach Riley eulogized Foltz. Riley said, Sam “had a unique pride. Everybody did in some form or fashion, but this guy was passionately proud of what he did. He loved it. That’s where he gained that respect from all these kids. Just how he approached things every day … He was a punter who was in there just like all the other guy, and made a real impact on guys. Really, fiercely competitive.”

Among social media posts of players and fans offering prayers and sympathy for Foltz and the two other players, on Monday, July 25, Wisconsin Badger kicker Rafael Gaglianone announced he would wear No. 27 to honor Nebraska’s Foltz. Gaglianone is entering his third season with the Badgers. Last season, he made 19-of-22 field goals for an 86.4 percent conversion rate. In an Omaha Sports Insider report, Husker sophomore running back Devine Ozigbo said Sam and he “had this thing where I would pretend to long snap the football, and he would always punt it no matter when and where he was. That’s just the type of guy he was.”

On Sunday evening in Greeley, the Omaha World Herald reported that a group of farmers were putting up hay and checking center-pivots at the Foltz farm in a solemn, small town tradition when there’s a death in the family, and that both town’s banks message boards flashed requests for prayers and peace for the Foltz family.

In a solemn tribute, Greeley residents also painted 54 N’s to line U.S. Highway 281 and Nebraska Highway 56.

Funeral services for Sam will be this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Grand Island.

All I can think is chants for Big Red must be rocking the clouds of Heaven.

GBR!

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