You hear plenty about Sam Foltz's strong character.
It's real, folks.
It's as genuine as the words Foltz wrote a couple of months ago on a card to Jeff Jamrog, thanking the former football program administrator for the opportunity to walk on at Nebraska.
Now the head coach at Midland University in Fremont, Jamrog was in charge of the Husker walk-on program when Foltz enthusiastically chose that path, turning down scholarship offers from Football Championship Subdivision programs.
"Who sends that kind of card?" Jamrog said Sunday, fighting back tears. "He wrote that he was thankful we believed in him. I mean, we're talking about a guy who always gave back and was appreciative of his opportunity. That tells you what kind of guy he was."
Many folks are struggling to understand the star punter's tragic death, the horrifying result of an automobile crash in Wisconsin. The car was driven by former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler, and both men were pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Waukesha County Sheriff's office.
A second passenger, LSU place-kicker Colby Delahoussaye, was transported to a hospital, and was released.
They had been working at a camp for punters, and now Foltz and Sadler are gone.
The news stopped many of us in our tracks. Yes, that powerful.
Even so, you try to push forward. I punched out this column en route to Big Ten Media Days. Nebraska won't be represented Monday or Tuesday in Chicago. NU absolutely shouldn't be there considering the gravity of the situation.
Foltz probably would want us to try to stay as positive as possible. But it's difficult right now. This pain will linger throughout Husker Nation and beyond. Thing is, kids are resilient. Foltz was resilient — extremely competitive. He had to rush a few punts in his day, and he kicked many of them into the heavens. I watched him in practice in utter awe, like I was watching Bubba Watson boom towering drives.
What an athlete, but more important, what a person.
"If you look at the core values that define the state of Nebraska, that's Sam Foltz," Jamrog said. "It was his hard work, character, attitude, perseverance, humble nature … all of it."
We're all searching for the right words. As I wrote this column in an airport, I struggled to put into proper perspective news that rocked the sporting world.
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Make no mistake, Foltz was a Grade-A athlete and team leader. He was captain material.
"He was very confident," Jamrog said. "I don't know how many times he came up to me and said, 'Jamrog, I'm going to get a scholarship and I'm going to make you proud.'
"He was such a great athlete. I mean, he came down here and ran a :04.47 in the 40 in our camp."
Yes, Foltz was a unique talent, who happened to punt the ball with a force that made him a surefire NFL prospect. During the summer before his sophomore season, Jamrog called Foltz into his office with news that the player had indeed earned a scholarship.
"He was so appreciative, so proud, so humble. He told me you'll never regret making that decision," recalled Jamrog, who then paused.
"Sorry, I'm a little choked up," he said.
Jamrog choked up because he knows we lost a great person. I write that with 100 percent certainty. That's rare.
This is rough stuff, indeed. It's painful for a lot of folks because Foltz touched so many.
I spoke to a parent of another Husker senior standout. He said he "cried like a baby" when informed of Foltz's death.
"You ask why — why Sam of all people?" Jamrog said. "Unfortunately, it's hard to come up with all the right words to describe the kind of person Sam Foltz really was — the character — because he was the total package. He was one of a kind. He was a tremendous leader, a tremendous teammate. I never saw him down or depressed. His family is unbelievable …
"Obviously, God wanted him on his team."
The airport was bustling as I stared at a photo on Foltz's Twitter account, the one that shows Foltz jogging in a benefit run. He's a picture of strength — cap backward, chin held high, kind smile, full beard, and powerful frame resembling that of a strong safety. A small boy — probably 8 or 9 years old — is running alongside Foltz while gazing up at the star athlete with a sense of wonder and admiration.
"You never know who's watching. What impact do you wanna leave on the next generation to aspire to?!" Foltz wrote.
I couldn't stop looking at the photo. Take a look at it. It might just make you smile, even amid searing pain.