I will admit that my knowledge of Sam Foltz is largely limited in terms of what a media member can offer, especially when those far closer to him can tell a much better story of just who he is.
That said, perhaps I can offer a different point of view, one that explains just how much impact his death has within the very fabric of Nebraska, the university and the state considering I know so truly little about what made Foltz who he is.
I’ve always been a sucker for punters, hence the frequent use of the hashtag #puntersarepeopletoo on my Twitter timeline. As someone who usually saw him on the field, I had plenty of reason to point out just how good “Slammin’ Sammy” was at his craft.
That said, my affinity for Foltz went beyond the power of his boot.
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) July 7, 2016
We never had deep conversations. To be honest, I was happy to get the occasional “hey” during practices when I had the opportunity, but I enjoy people-watching and with Foltz, the entertainment got ramped up a few notches. He was always smiling. That’s one thing I don’t think I’ll ever forget about No. 27. I can’t think of a time when he was among his peers that I saw him without a grin on his face.
He reminded me of another young man whose name is synonymous with the program in Brook Berringer. Unfortunately similar to Foltz, his life was tragically cut short in a small plane crash just two days before the 1996 NFL Draft. The two were both warm, genuine people. They were the type of young men that mothers and fathers would love their sons to grow up to emulate.
When news spread of Berringer’s death, people were stunned. You didn’t have to be a Nebraska fan to feel the impact, but word traveled quickly through the Big Red Grapevine at a rather impressive rate — even back in the late ‘90s.
On Sunday, as a full-blown addict of Twitter’s grip on information in this day and age, it was impossible for me to look away. More gut-wrenching information came out, but what told the tale of just how big the loss of Sam Foltz was to the Cornhusker community was how everyone stepped in to say a kind word. From many like me who didn’t know him closely, to those who were able to see him on a day-to-day basis.
A vigil was held Sunday afternoon where junior safety Kieron Williams was seen leading a crowd in reverence for his now-departed brother. He tried his best to talk to media covering the scene.
After learning that the Nebraska contingent wouldn’t be present at Big Ten media days this week and statements were given by Nebraska head coach Mike Riley and athletic director Shawn Eichorst, I decided to lie down. To be quite honest with you, I’m not sure what I thought it would accomplish. Maybe the weight in my stomach would subside. When I woke up, I said to myself, “Maybe it was all just a bad dream.”
Alas, it wasn’t.
Slammin’ Sammy is still gone, but much like Berringer, Nebraska fans are all better off having the opportunity to say they knew him — even if it was just as a representative of the school they love.