Rafael Gaglianone won't play in Saturday's mammoth game against Nebraska. That doesn't mean the day won't be heavy with significance for Wisconsin's junior kicker.
It will be a chance to for him to see Gerald and Jill Foltz, Sam Foltz's parents, for the first time since the Nebraska punter's funeral in July.
"Everything that happened was so tough, but it came with a lot of blessings — meeting the Foltz family and staying in touch with Gerald and Jill and especially Gerald," Gaglianone said Tuesday. "I talk to Gerald every week. He calls me every Friday before games to ask me how I'm doing and wish me luck. I'm truly excited to see them this week and spend some time with them off the field."
Gaglianone and Foltz, along with Nebraska kicker Drew Brown and all of the specialists from both teams, share a strong bond. Gaglianone switched his jersey number to 27 before the start of the season to honor Foltz. He spent time in Lincoln with Brown after Foltz's funeral.
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"Since I've gotten to know him, it's been a blessing," Brown said. "He was able to stay at my house a little bit over the summer. He's a nice guy. All the specialists, they're great guys. And just in general all the specialists in the Big Ten, we're a tight-knit group."
Gaglianone was off to a strong start this season before aggravating a nagging back injury in practice and having season-ending surgery after the Badgers' win over Georgia State Sept. 17.
But the July's events gave him a renewed perspective.
"I'm still lucky to be able to come home and talk with my family; talk to my friends," Gaglianone said. "It's tough to go out with an injury, especially with the games we had coming up, but I'm blessed to have an opportunity to play the game."