EAST LANSING, Mich. — Mike Sadler’s mother Karen assumed the decision to induct her son into the Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame would be deliberated heavily.
“Wasn’t that such a great honor?” she said to reporters Thursday before the official induction ceremony. She spoke about how much research must have been put into making sure this decision was the right one.
Normally, athletes aren’t eligible for inclusion until after a 10-year waiting period. The second-youngest in this class, softball player Patti Raduenz, played from 1993-96. Sadler graduated in 2013 and finished his playing career in 2014.
No one wishes the circumstances called for this. Sadler, an All-Big Ten punter and four-time Academic All-American, died in a July car crash that also killed Nebraska punter Sam Foltz.
In the wake of tragedy, the decision was placed before the Hall of Fame committee, and it was easier than Sadler’s mother thought.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of thought that went into it,” Michigan State athletics director Mark Hollis said. “It was just the natural process that seemed right by everybody in it. There was no lobbying, no pushing. It just happened.”
That’s not to say any attempt at research was disregarded. It’s more of a reflection on Sadler’s reputation as an open book. Thousands of his witty thoughts are still documented on Twitter, where, with his humor, he built a following of over 20,000 people.
Hollis has found himself looking back through those tweets and recalling fond memories. One of his first interactions with Sadler came when he had to call the young Spartans punter into his office about a “hilarious but inappropriate” social media post.
“That was kind of the launch of the relationship,” Hollis said. “His humor was what I strive to be. It tends to be witty. It tends to have a message that’s bigger than the joke. That’s why I appreciated him so much.”
If the last few months are any indication, the rest of the Michigan State community did as well. Since Sadler’s death, nearly $125,000 has been raised for the Mike Sadler Legacy Football Scholarship endowment by 337 donors.
Michigan State will continue flipping a Big Ten-issued coin with Foltz and Sadler on either side for the rest of the season. And against Wisconsin on Saturday, at least, the Spartans will do so on a logo with Sadler’s No. 3 on it at midfield of Spartan Stadium.
Surely Sadler never imagined this, but the Athletics Hall of Fame induction did cross his mind. That and academic honors were ultimate goals of his, according to his mother.
“It just means the world because it’s just another credit to him that he did the right thing when he needed to do the right thing,” Karen Sadler said. “He would be thrilled about all of this.”
Along with the scholarship fund, she hopes to continue enacting positive change through the Michael Sadler Foundation.
“It’s a wonderful legacy, for sure,” she said. “He touched a lot of people.”