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He hasn't been here long. Caleb Lightbourn didn't have to be to learn Sam Foltz was going to push him just like he'd push himself.

It's why the Nebraska true freshman felt compelled to step forward and speak Sunday afternoon during an on-campus vigil to remember Foltz.

Some might see another scholarship punter show up on campus and keep their distance. Foltz got closer.

"He wanted to make me better," Lightbourn said. "He wanted to make sure that no matter what happened, he could not only improve himself but improve the people that were coming after him."

The truth is, Foltz is a big reason why Lightbourn is here right now. When the native of Washougal, Washington, made his official recruiting visit to Lincoln, it was Foltz who told him he could be great.

"I believed him and couldn't be more grateful to know him as a person," Lightbourn said.

The football season is less than six weeks away, but that has been the least of anyone's concerns in Nebraska since the tragic news that Foltz had died in a car accident.

While Lightbourn potentially could have a bigger role this season than he ever could have imagined before his summer arrival, his focus right now is remembering the lessons he gained from the man who was last year's Big Ten punter of the year.

Last Tuesday, Lightbourn said Foltz had told him how when he attended offseason competitions and clinics, he didn't get caught up in what everyone else around him was doing.

"He doesn't want to do anything differently. He doesn't want to do anything like anybody else. He wanted to be just Sam," Lightbourn said. "I think that's the one thing that I'm going to take away from him.

"I'm going to be me and take what he said and take his wisdom and try to become not only the best football player, the best punter, but the best person I can be because that's what Sam did."

Lightbourn saw immediately how Foltz cared for both his teammates and the community around him.

So did Jamie Sutcliffe, a senior kicker who transferred to Nebraska last year from junior college after growing up in California.

"The second I got here, I was alone. I barely knew anyone. I was afraid," Sutcliffe said. "But Sam took me right under his wing. He was like, 'Hey, it's going to be OK. I promise you things are going to be OK and things are going to be good.'"

Sutcliffe believed him.

Just like Lightbourn did when Foltz told him he had it within him to be great.

"I'm going to do my best to follow up what he did here," Lightbourn said. "There's no way I could ever replace him. But just knowing that I had the opportunity to work with him, even though it was just 2½ months ... I'm a better person because of Sam and I just want to thank him."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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