You never forget the call, and about 10 minutes before it went live to television, Jamie Kohl’s cell buzzed to confirm the good news. The name he’d been working for months to hear called during the 2017 NFL Draft had finally received the green light.
— GR3G J○N3S (@Big10HUSKERS) April 29, 2017
“Sam would’ve been drafted this year,” Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh told the NFL Network Saturday. “He was one of the absolute best specialists in the country.”
Amen. Amen, amen, amen.
“I think the Foltz family appreciated it,” Kohl, founder of Kohl’s Kicking, Punting and Snapping camps and a longtime friend and confidant of late Nebraska punter Sam Foltz, told Land of 10 this week.
“It was a hard weekend, I believe, because that was one where Sam was, in their eyes, going to be taken. And in mine as well. And they were very, very appreciative of what the Ravens did. And I believe they felt a great sense of gratitude toward the Ravens and the NFL.”
Because it actually took several hands, and more than a little hammering, to get that short on-air tribute to Foltz over the line. From Kohl to Baltimore special teams coach Jerry Rosburg. From Rosburg to Harbaugh. From Rosburg and Harbaugh to Ravens management. From Ravens management to the NFL and the NFL Network.
“John just took that opportunity and said, ‘I’m going to talk about this kid because I want to,’” Kohl recalled. “That’s why I did it. I wanted more, really, but at the end of the day, he was mentioned and John Harbaugh is a pretty big figure in the NFL. And to go out there and take time to do that, it’s still a pretty cool idea.”
‘Sam was worth it’
It always was. Foltz had been working as a counselor at Kohl’s camp last July 23 when he was involved in a fatal one-car accident in Wisconsin, a great life and a promising football career cut tragically short. Since last fall, Kohl had pined to see No. 27’s name called at the draft.
“He had the goods to be drafted, in my mind,” Kohl said of Foltz, the Big Ten’s Punter of the Year in 2015 and a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a junior. “I just felt there wasn’t a punter out there [in the draft] and Sam was the guy.”
Scouts concurred. Foltz’s pro profile is still up on the NFLDraftScout.com database, which had ranked him as the No. 4 punter eligible (out of 50) in the class of 2017. With a 40 time as low as 4.58 on his resume, the former Cornhuskers standout was even vetted as a possible wide receiver at the next level.
“Jerry,” Kohl recalled, “said he could get this thing done.”
Kohl credits Rosburg with the heavy lifting. As a longtime friend, he had gone to the Ravens assistant late last year to see about getting Foltz’s name called someway, somehow — Ceremonial pick? On-air tribute? — during draft weekend. Ravens punter and former Big Red punter Sam Koch vouched for his fellow Huskers specialist, too.
‘Look, if they’re not going to do it officially, I’ll do it.’
— Ravens coach John Harbaugh on calling Sam Foltz’s name at the NFL Draft
Kohl had initially pushed for Foltz to be an actual pick. When Rosburg and Ravens officials ran that one up the flagpole, though, the NFL pushed back.
“The thing Jerry and I didn’t consider is the whole ‘precedence’ thing,” Kohl explained. “And having to be mindful of the other people who have suffered tragic losses and then for [the league] to give [special] consideration to those people, is just a very difficult thing.
“But for us, Sam was worth it. And he deserved it. So we kept pushing.”
Rosburg had gotten to know Kohl well through his camps over the years, and trusted his instincts. The two circled back on The Foltz Plan during a meeting at the NFL combine in early March.
“The owners and the NFL basically said that, ‘We can’t do anything, officially,’” Kohl said. “’But if you want to figure out a way to do it on TV, we basically can make it happen.’”
‘I wish I could’ve done more’
So they hammered again, this time to the NFL Network. The Ravens were without a seventh-round pick, having traded it away in a 2015 swap for wideout Chris Givens. But instead of packing up early for the weekend, Harbaugh saw an opportunity to use their “turn” to offer a heartfelt tribute to Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler, who also was killed in the crash.
“John Harbaugh took the ball and ran with it,” Kohl said. “He especially was dedicated and motivated to hear Sam [called]. And he mentioned Mike Sadler as well.
“He said, ‘Look, if they’re not going to do it officially, I’ll do it.’ He even had to press the producers and the NFL Network. They had their own agenda in regards to programming.”
Kohl didn’t even know that Harbaugh would be cleared to talk about the specialists until only a few minutes before he actually appeared. After he got the call of confirmation, Kohl rang up Sam’s father, Gerald Foltz, to tell him the good news — and to set to his DVR, and quickly.
“He absolutely is appreciative of everybody that continues to honor and memorialize Sam,” said Kohl, who said he has plans in the works to set up a permanent memorial to Foltz at his camps starting this summer. “It’s a testament to Sam and his impact.
“I think they are somewhat humbled by the outpouring of support. And it’s just another way for them to remember that Sam was very special.”
— Cody Mainquist (@NebraskaCody) April 29, 2017
— Jeff the Janitor (@jdpackfan) April 29, 2017
— Bryan (@Padsker) April 29, 2017
Harbaugh Agenda 1, NFL Network Agenda 0.
“I really wanted to do it for Sam, but also for the family,” Kohl said. “They took a lot of pride in his punting. This was a great way for that to be shown.
“And, you know, personally, I wish I could’ve done more. I wish we could’ve done more.”