Kicking and punting camp serves as reminder to the legacy former Husker punter left behind

Published Friday, July 7th, 2023 on NTV ABC. Trey Redfield.

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — When it comes to kicking and punting in Nebraska, especially away from Lincoln and Omaha, it is normal to see a position player handle those duties.

But don’t expect that for long. The Sam Foltz Foundation held its first annual high school kicking and punting camp in Grand Island, Neb. on Friday afternoon, led by Jamie Kohl.

Kohl kicked at Iowa State and run’s Kohl’s Professional Camps, one of the most popular football camps in the country.

“I remember this area for the people I encountered,” Kohl said. “The way they treated me, the way they treated me after [Sam Foltz’s] funeral, and just great people.”

Kohl is one of those great people to help try and build a kicking and punting hotspot in central Nebraska.

Betsy Foltz, Sam’s little sister and key contributor to the Sam Foltz Foundation, details why having a camp in central Nebraska is essential.

“There’s not a lot of camps that are readily available in our area,” Foltz said. “Most of them have to travel to Omaha for or travel out of state for. We’re really fortunate to be able to host something like this in Grand Island.”

Grand Island was where Sam Foltz shined. He played football and ran track – where he still holds the 400 meter dash record. Plus, Foltz played basketball in the winter and baseball, before making more of a commitment to football.

In football, Foltz got into kicking and punting, accidentally signing up for a scholarship camp in Wisconsin. In the end, it all worked out.

“So Jamie was gracious enough to let Sam stay,” Betsy said. “And Sam ended up being in the top five at that camp.”

Keep in mind, that camp was loaded with scholarship athletes, off to play Division I football. Foltz earned the right to play at that level, punting for Nebraska.

But in 2016, tragedy struck the Foltz family, when Sam was killed in a car accident on July 23. He left an inspiration to those who not only knew him, but also to those who will follow in his footsteps.

“It’s hard to explain, but I just took it as a norm because I was around him all the time,” Gerald Foltz, Sam’s father, said. “It wasn’t until after he passed where you went, ‘He’s pretty special.’”

Seven years after he passed, Foltz has left an unbelievable legacy that continues to touch folks across the entire state.

Whether it’s in Greeley, where he grew up, or where he went to school in Grand Island, his motto, “Dream big. Work hard. Stay humble,” carries across the entire state.

“[Sam] also gives us that example of wanting to give back,” Jeff Tomlin, current Grand Island Senior High School head coach and Sam’s high school coach, said. “Wanting to serve, wanting to impact others, and wanting to be that light in somebody’s life and making their day better.”

Now, in 2023, his family is helping kickers and punters become better specialists. The Foltz family plans on making this camp an annual tradition in Grand Island, where Foltz first shined on the gridiron.

Stretch of Highway 56 in Greeley honors former Husker Foltz

Originally Published July 15, 2022 Courtesy of KSNB Hastings Written By Kasey Mintz

GREELEY, Neb. (KSNB) – A highway sign in Greeley, Nebraska now bears Sam Foltz’s name in memorium. The former Husker punter is honored, not for his ability to kick footballs, but for how he treated people.

“They all said that when Sam got done talking to you, it was like you were the most important person he had talked to that day,” Martin Callahan said. “We lost Sam Foltz on a highway in Wisconsin some six years ago. Hopefully, with this highway naming, we will keep Sam’s memory and purpose alive.”

According to the Foltz family, Sam was always ready to make new players feel at home.

“We’ve had a lot of stories of moms of football players that said, ‘My kid was scared to death, scared to death.’ And they might be being razzed by one of the other players,” Jill Foltz said. “Sometimes Sam would show up and just have the kid sit at the dinner table with him, or say, ‘It doesn’t matter. I didn’t have that many stars behind my name either.’”

Sam’s father said his son was even though he was a talented young man on the football field, something else made him stand out.

“The thing that made Sam special was the fact that he didn’t think he was special, and he lived that,” Gerald Foltz said. “It was written all over his face. You run into those people once in a while, but not very often in a lifetime. Quite amazing.”

The woman who did a lion’s share of work to get the stretch of highway dedicated to the late punter, says it’s meant to honor Sam in the future, just as much as it does now.

“My hope, my dream really, is that years from now, years into the future when a family is driving along the Sam Foltz Memorial Highway, a child in the car says, ‘Dad, who was Sam Foltz?’ I hope his father says, ‘He was a very great young man.’” Mary Ann Mcquillan said.

May we all learn to treat people as Sam Foltz did.

Copyright 2022 KSNB. All rights reserved.

Stretch of highway near Greeley is named after former Husker punter Sam Foltz

Originally Posted February 10, 2022 in the Nebraska Examiner. Written by Paul Hammel.

A small Nebraska town has won approval to memorialize a local football hero.

A portion of Nebraska Highway 56 near Greeley has now been officially designated as the “Sam Foltz Memorial Highway.”

Foltz, whose family is from the Greeley area, was a star punter for the Huskers until being tragically killed in a vehicle accident in Wisconsin in July 2016.

Foltz attended Grand Island High School and joined the University of Nebraska football team as a walk-on, meaning he wasn’t given a scholarship. But he eventually earned a scholarship and blossomed into the Big 10 punter of the year in 2015. Foltz was seen as a prime prospect for the NFL.

Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a resolution last week naming a 12.9-mile segment of Highway 56 after Foltz. Five generations of the Foltz family have farmed along that stretch of highway, including Sam Foltz’s parents, Gerald and Jill Foltz.

The Greeley Citizen reported that the naming project was launched by a local committee of citizens led by Mary Ann McQuillan of Greeley. A fund-raising campaign has been launched through the First National Bank in Greeley to defray costs of signage along the highway.

The State Highway Commission, which governs the naming of highways, approved the request in December.

Nearly 20 former Huskers took part in an event Friday honoring Sam Foltz

Originally posted July 16, 2021 on Husker Online. Written by Sean Callahan, Husker Online Publisher

GREELEY, Neb. – Less than seven days from now nationally renowned kicking coach Jamie Kohl will begin his “Super Week” as he calls it.

Kohl will work with around 20 NFL starting specialists for two days in Gatlinburg, Tenn., then every top college specialist will join him before he runs his high school camp that features the top kickers and punters in the country.

On Friday, Kohl found himself in Greeley, Neb. on a small patch of grass surrounded by cornfields and a set of goalposts that were welded together on Thursday. This week marks the five-year anniversary of the tragic death of Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and Michigan State punter Mike Sadler. The two were killed in a car accident on a rainy night in Wisconsin while working as counselors at Kohl’s Kicking Camp.

It’s a day Kohl will never forget. On Friday, Kohl took his operation up to Greeley, the home of Foltz. The event was put on by the Foltz family and featured nearly 20 former Husker players and over 250 spectators and participants. The town of Greeley has a population of just 339.

“This was kind of a unique situation,” Kohl said. “We didn’t know how many people were going to be here, and the community really came out and supported Sam. Hopefully, a couple of kids can take a few things they learned and work on them.”

To this day, Kohl has kept a close relationship with the Foltz family. In fact, when Kohl’s son J.J. Kohl took part in Nebraska’s seven-on-seven camp in June, the Foltz family was with him watching the entire day.

“Five years ago was probably the worst day of my life, quite frankly,” Kohl said. “The world lost just an outstanding person. Sam’s legacy is still strong, and that’s a testament to him and all that he accomplished in his short time on earth.”

The list of former Huskers in Greeley on Friday also ran very deep. Brett Maher, Nate Gerry, Spencer Lindsay, Ryker Fyfe, Steve Kriewald, Mick Stoltenberg, Dylan Utter, Sam Hahn, Brad Simpson, Zach Sterup, Josh Banderas, Brandon Reilly, Cole Pensick, Dan Pensick, Harrison Jordan, Pat Smith and MattJarzynka all took part in the event.

For guys like Gerry, who are getting ready for another season in the NFL, it was an easy decision to take some time to get up to Greeley on Friday.

“When you think of Nebraska football you think of guys like Sam Foltz,” Gerry said. “He’s the epitome of what everybody wants out of Nebraska football.

“Still to this day in the league when I’m walking around the field people bring up Sam’s name to me. A lot of the special teams coaches ask me a lot about him or tell me a lot about him.”

Guys like Lindsay and Maher plan to continue the tradition of hosting a Central Nebraska-based kicking and punting camp in the honor of Foltz.

If one thing is certain, a lot has happened in the world over the last five years, but the impact Foltz had on so many still remains strong to this day.

“I firmly believe, through our scouting services and just talking to NFL teams, Sam would have been the first guy drafted his senior year and would probably be going on to his second contract in the NFL,” Kohl said. “He was different. He was very, very good. He was a great athlete that took to the mechanics of punting. Normally, somebody who is athletic as him is a field player and not as focused on being a great specialist, and that’s why he was so special.”

How college football made sure Sam Foltz would not be forgotten

Originally posted November 30, 2016 USA Today Sports. Written by Nicole Auerbach

Not even two minutes into Nebraska’s season-opening game against Fresno State, the Huskers faced a routine, yet rather emotional moment: Their first punt.

To be more precise, their first punt since their punter, Sam Foltz, had been killed in a car crash during the summer with former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler.

The Huskers lined up in punt formation with just 10 players; they were and would always be missing one. They took a delay-of-game penalty. As Nebraska players cried and some pointed to the sky, Fresno State players on the field began to clap. The Memorial Stadium crowd roared. And in a display of supreme sportsmanship, Fresno State declined the penalty.

“That was a special moment for a lot of guys who were really close to him, and for everyone else who was teammates with him,” Nebraska kicker Drew Brown said this week. “It was very emotional, and I’m glad we did it. It meant a lot to me, and I know it meant a lot to his family.

“That was one of the coolest moments I’ve ever experienced in sports. We’ve tried to do as many things as possible to honor Sam, and that was one of the smallest things — but it will go down in Husker football history.”

Fresno State declining the penalty was just the beginning of a trend Brown said he didn’t expect to happen, and couldn’t have imagined until it did. Nebraska’s opponents continued to, on a weekly basis, pay homage to Foltz and his family, helping his legacy endure weeks and months after the accident that took the life of the 22-year-old walk-on who inspired everyone around him to work hard to make their dreams a reality.

Foltz’s parents, Gerald and Jill, made a point to attend every Nebraska game, both home and away, this season, no matter how difficult it was to face constant reminders that their son was not on the field.

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich and his kicker, Matt Wogan, placed flowers at the 27 yard line — Foltz wore No. 27 — before the Ducks’ game against Nebraska. Northwestern players wore “SF27” decals on their helmets. Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin presented No. 27 jerseys to the Nebraska specialists before their games.

Ohio State presented a helmet to Foltz’s parents, a helmet with 27 Buckeye leaves on it. The Buckeyes’ marching band also honored Foltz during halftime.

When Indiana played the Huskers, the Hoosiers also hosted Karen Sadler, the mother of former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler, who was also killed the same car crash, and she met the Foltzes at that game. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz set up a private tribute to Foltz before its game against Nebraska last weekend with both a Foltz Nebraska jersey and a No. 27 Iowa jersey.

The Big Ten conference also chose to commemorate Foltz and Sadler on a coin that was used for coin flips across the league.

All of those small gestures taken together have been overwhelming at times for the Huskers, who were blown away by their friends on other teams who made these tributes happen.

“It really shows that football is just a game, and there’s more to life than just wins and losses,” Brown said. “What matters is the people actually playing the game and the different relationships you make.

“When we saw teams go out of their way to make Sam’s legacy to last that much longer, it really meant a lot to us. It shows that, throughout all the teams across the country, we’re one tight-knit family.”

Right now, all the commemorative jerseys and helmets are kept in Nebraska’s equipment room, Brown said. He expects the team to frame them and give them to the Foltz family, a reminder of the way college football wrapped itself around them this season.

“Even though they’re our opponents on the field, they really showed that they cared about the loss that we’ve had to cope with,” Brown said. “It was really special, and it’s one of the great things about sports.”