ANN ARBOR, Mich. — While at the movies on Saturday night, Kenny Allen received a text message that he simply could not believe — rather, one that the Michigan punter/kicker did not want to believe.
His good friend, Mike Sadler — formerly of Michigan State — had been killed in a single-car accident. According to multiple reports, Sadler was traveling a road full of dangerous twists and turns in Merton, Wisc., where he was working a Kohl’s kicking camp — the same camp Allen attended one year ago.
While on the challenging stretch, Sadler’s vehicle veered off course, slamming into a tree. He was pronounced dead at the scene, per multiple reports.
Wisconsin punter Sam Foltz, a passenger, also died as a result of the tragedy. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaya, the third passenger, escaped with minor injuries and is expected to make a full recovery.
“When I got home, I got on Twitter and saw all of it,” said Allen, who was initially skeptical due to the nature of social media. “I was kind of… I don’t know how to say it… I wasn’t really sure. But then, I just got back to my place and I saw the news explode about him and Sam.”
Heartbroken and stunned over the death of Sadler, Allen says he’ll often think about the former Spartans punter this fall. Maybe right before a crucial moment. Maybe after a win. And of course, he’ll always remember the talks. Those are cemented into Allen’s memory.
And they varied.
Greatly varied, actually.
“We would talk about the most random stuff you can think of,” Allen said in a sad but humorous tone. “I just remember going off and talking about movies, mutual friends that we had — we’d be connected in the most random ways.
“Just funny stuff. It’s hard to pinpoint where our conversations would lead to… anyone who knew Mike knew that he was the funniest kid in the world. Anything that came out of his mouth, you weren’t sure what it was going to be…”
Mike Sadler tribute video: https://t.co/L2kOyebHOk
— Spartan Football (@MSU_Football) July 24, 2016
Before they chose colleges, Allen and Sadler spent a considerable amount of time together at camps, becoming close friends — not just eventual in-state rivals in East Lansing and in Ann Arbor. With that being said, Allen will never forget the moment he first met Sadler, who had established a reputation as one of the most elite punters on the recruiting circuit before having an illustrious four-year career at Michigan State.
“It was when my brother (Jimmy Allen) went to his first kicking camp — I was probably in fifth grade,” Allen said. “Mike was punting, and my brother was punting, at this camp at U-of-M, and I remember seeing this kid just like bombing footballs — and I was just like ‘Oh my gosh!’ I remember people saying, ‘That’s Mike Sadler! That’s Mike Sadler!’ Just this little skinny kid, who was drilling punts. I was like, ‘Whoah, I want to do that!’ So, eventually, I started going to more camps…
“For how old he was, and how high he could punt it, I knew that I wanted to be able to do that as well.”
Back in 2014, Sadler approached Allen in the most “Sadler” way possible — right before a huge duel at Spartan Stadium. And it was right as Allen was warming up with his team of Wolverines long-snappers, kickers, punters and holders.
Sadler always had a knack for timing.
“I remember before the game, we’re over there kicking, and here comes Mike Sadler out of the tunnel — he just came up to us, runs up to us, and gave us a big hug,” Allen said of his friend who punted for 11,307 yards while with the Spartans. In Sadler’s eyes, friends were friends — even if they wore opposing colors on Saturday. Sadler was known by many specialists throughout the country.
Football, though, was merely something Sadler played. It didn’t define his time at Michigan State by any stretch of the imagination. The school’s only four-time academic All-American, Sadler — a Rhodes Scholar — graduated in 2015 with intentions of attending law school.
This week, Michigan State announced the creation of the Mike Sadler Legacy Scholarship Fund, a way to celebrate the life of an ideal student-athlete.
And he was ideal, across the board, when it came to successfully balancing high-level athletics with high-level learning.
“Oh, of course — he was All-American both on and off the field and that’s incredible,” said Allen. “That’s an incredible accomplishment. With him doing that, it goes to show that it’s not impossible to do that — to be an All-American liked Mike did, on and off the field.
“I mean, football doesn’t last forever, and the academics is what sets you up for the rest of your life. Mike was showing that. He was doing what he did best.”
Sadler lived Michigan State’s “reach higher” mantra. He served as an example, a leader.
He was a pretty cool guy to know. Allen considers himself lucky to have formed a bond with such a uniquely different character.
“I definitely smile,” Allen said. “The first thing you picture is Mike smiling or cracking a joke. He definitely made you smile. He was inspirational.”