CHICAGO — In the days following the Saturday car crash that killed Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler, the mood among the different members of the Big Ten has been a somber one. It was so much so that Mike Riley and his Nebraska players stayed home from Big Ten media days, which started up just one day after the fateful news broke.
Mark Dantonio and the Spartans did show. Their time to represent was Tuesday, and with an extra day to reconcile with losing a player who was a senior when this year’s upperclassmen were juniors and seniors in 2014, the representation largely turned into reflections about Sadler.
“He was a giver. He lived life,” Dantonio said in his opening statement Tuesday. “There was no take in Mike Sadler. He made everybody’s life around him better.”
Sadler and Foltz died in a single-car collision Saturday on the way back from a football camp near Waukesha, Wisconsin. The car slid on wet pavement and struck a tree, killing Sadler, who was driving, as well as Foltz. LSU punter Colby Delahoussaye was also in the car, but he was released from the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
As the Spartans’ starting punter from 2011-2014, Sadler was tasked with giving opposing offenses a coffin to work in against one of the top defenses in the country. He did that exceptionally well, placing 104 punts inside the 20-yard-line and 56 punts inside the 10. He was a two-time First-Team All-Big Ten selection, but his biggest impact came off the field.
That’s where he was a four-time academic All-American, the first of his kind in Michigan State history. It’s also where he lit up rooms with his humor, a trait that gravitated others his way and contrasted the competitive individual everyone else would come to know on the football field.
“Mike Sadler could have been the most successful Michigan State grad there ever was,” Michigan State tight end Josiah Price said. “He was that kind of a person. He had that kind of talent, that kind of intelligence, that kind of drive, that kind of motivation.”
But Sadler did come alive on that field as well, living through the selfless responsibilities that come with life as a punter.
“Mike was a guy who as much as anything impacts our staff,” Dantonio said Tuesday. “Our staff has had very little turnover. It’s not just our staff but our academic staff, our training staff, our equipment staff, our strength staff. He was family to all, so it was very numbing yesterday.
“Knowing Mike, as I said earlier, he’d want us to move forward. He’d want us to laugh again and honor him by doing what we do.”