Before the hymns, prayers and tears for a fallen Husker football player Sunday, four young fans from Lincoln clad in Nebraska apparel laid red and white roses at the base of a statue of Brook Berringer and Tom Osborne outside Memorial Stadium.
Brinley, Isaiah, Camden and Lucah Abell only knew Sam Foltz through the TV screen.
But their parents, Mike and Chelsie, brought them to mourn the death of the 22-year-old Husker punter killed in a car wreck in Wisconsin late Saturday.
“It’s amazing just coming together and being united,” said Chelsie Abell, who described her family as “die-hard Husker fans."
"(Foltz) was obviously just an amazing guy."
The Abells' gesture and the crowd of several hundred teammates, student-athletes and other Husker fans that gathered outside North Stadium to remember Foltz didn’t surprise his relatives there.
“They were his family, too,” said Bev Ruff, a cousin of Sam Foltz’s dad.
Ruff and her husband, Jerry, came down from Omaha for the vigil organized by Foltz's teammates Sunday afternoon. Ruff’s brother Tom Foltz and his wife, Vicki, joined them from North Bend.
Sam Foltz was a family hero, they said.
With the Ruffs season-ticket holders for 45 years, Jerry Ruff said, “We were thrilled we finally got a Foltz in there.
“A walk-on, Nebraska boy.”
In North Stadium’s Section 34 on fall Saturdays, the Ruffs led cheers of “Sammy, Sammy” every time he took the field. Which wasn’t that often, they said.
They don’t know if he could hear their chants and worried it might mess him up, they said.
A preseason All-America punter, the former walk-on and Grand Island High School star had his sights set on a professional football career, his relatives said.
They were all excited for his senior year.
“We sure wanted him to finish great,” Jerry Ruff said.
Talented for sure, Sam Foltz epitomized hard work and humility, the Ruffs and Foltzes said.
They’ll remember how they didn’t mind waiting a little longer to see him after a game one time as No. 27 gladly signed the autographs of little boys and girls who caught him first.
A big family man, Sam Foltz loved kids, his relatives said.
Coach Mike Riley should recruit more high schoolers like Foltz, Jerry Ruff said.
“He never let us down."
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