Mike Riley loved watching Sam Foltz punt. Just loved it.
He loved the beginning of practices. He'd study Foltz and how he conducted his craft. Punters get ragged on some times, but for the ones who do it well, it can be an art.
"It was a beauty to watch him practice," Riley said Sunday night. "It was good."
Riley especially loved watching him practice pinning an opponent inside the 10. Or 5. Or sometimes the 3. The coach would stand down by the end zone and yell out the yard line the ball was hitting on.
Foltz was "passionately proud" of that and everything he did, the coach said. Even in the weight room. Punters aren't supposed to be respected in there. Foltz was.
He wasn't just a punter. He was a football player.
"No disrespect to any other specialists anywhere in the world, but this guy was unique in that way," Riley said. "He was a punter that was in there just like all the other guys all the time and made a real impact on people. Really, fiercely competitive."
>>> About the team meeting Sunday night, Riley singled out senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong as a player who had some good things to say. The important part, the coach felt, was just being together and understanding that everyone is going to grieve in different ways.
Riley said Armstrong did well at summing up the importance of staying together as a team. "Really good stuff."
>>> This is a deep Husker senior class that Foltz was part of.
You have free articles remaining.
"This group, I didn't get to be with them when they came in, but knowing them now and seeing them now, it's pretty neat," Riley said. "I think they will probably in some ways be the most sad, but they'll provide the most strength."
>>> Riley's eyes were glassy as he spoke to reporters in the North Stadium lobby. Earlier in his career, he had to take a phone call about one of his players at Oregon State dying of a heart attack on the student rec center basketball court. Riley was on the road recruiting that day. He hoped to never have another call like that again.
"The phone calls are stuck in time in your mind," Riley said. "Vivid."
>>> It seems without question Nebraska did the right thing to not participate in Big Ten Media Days after Sunday's news.
For what it's worth, Riley was not yet in Chicago when the news arrived. The Huskers were planning to leave in the early evening.
>>> Husker kicker Drew Brown was also at the kicking camp in Wisconsin that Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler were driving from.
Riley said Brown was his first contact and he's talked with him numerous times today. Brown is on his way back to Nebraska.
Brown put out a heartbreaking tweet Sunday night: