The heavens cried on Saturday morning before Sam Foltz’s funeral, as torrential rain flooded many streets. That didn’t stop people from coming.
Nebraska Husker flags lined the outside of Blessed Sacrament Church. Inside, nearly 2,000 people showed their love and support at Foltz’s funeral.
Husker punter Foltz, 22, died in a car accident July 23 in Wisconsin. Former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler also died in the accident, and Louisiana State kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured.
Flowers and photos filled the hallways where overflow seating was placed. Seven buses carrying Foltz’s fellow football players and other members of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln athletic department showed up to honor Foltz. Few seats were left unoccupied.
People still filed in when the service started at 10:30 a.m. The Rev. Donald Buhrman led the mass and addressed Greeley, Grand Island and all of Husker nation.
“Our prayers are with you. Not just now, but in the days and the weeks and the months ahead,” Buhrman said of Foltz’s loss.
He spoke of the significance of Foltz’s middle name, Noah. He said Foltz and today’s weather lived up to the name.
“Noah has the sense of boldness, so it makes sense that we’re flooding today,” Buhrman said as attendees smiled and snickered.
Several religious readings were presented, including Psalm 63, which is summarized as reminding people that God is always with them.
Buhrman said Foltz was Christ-like and cared about others.
“He was focused on others, and gave so much to others and cared for others,” Buhrman said.
Buhrman spoke of the significance of Memorial Stadium’s name. He said “memorial” implies that it’s in memoriam of those that came before. He said people, and especially the football players, shouldn’t forget the significance of remembering a life lost.
“That’s done over and over again, and you’ll do it well. We need to do it well,” Buhrman said.
Buhrman told a story about his high school classmate, Grant, who died in a car accident. Buhrman explained that he went up to Grant, a track star, and consoled him after Grant was disqualified from a race. Buhrman said Grant told him that it was OK. He just needed to prepare for the next race.
Buhrman said that moment, especially after Grant’s death, held a special place in his heart and helped give him a new perspective on life. Just as Buhrman keeps Grant’s legacy alive, he said people should all strive to keep Foltz’s memory alive.
Foltz was an accomplished football player and would’ve played his senior season this year after joining as a walk-on in 2014. He was on the Ray Guy Award watch list this year and last, with his NFL dream not far from his clutch. The NFL was the next level for Foltz. But Buhrman said Foltz’s mom, Jill, said, “Sam’s not going on to the next level. He’s going on to the best level,” referring to heaven.
Husker nation flags reflected on the church door windows during the service as people participated in communion. In attendance were Foltz’s family, members of Greeley Fire and Rescue, University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds, Husker Coach Mike Riley, NU Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst and hundreds of friends and community members. Some men even wore blaze orange vests over their suits to show respect to Foltz, as he was an avid hunter and outdoorsman.
The service program outlined Foltz’s life and personality.
“Sam made friends with everyone he met. Sam was always the first person to show up to help others and made everyone he talked to feel like they were the most important person in that moment,” the pamphlet read. “Sam’s family and the Lord were his rock.”
The inside of the program showed a photo of Foltz crouching in the Husker end zone, seemingly praying. The lyrics to Tim McGraw’s “Humble & Kind” were printed below and acted as a good description of what many say was Foltz’s character.
“Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you. When you get where you’re going, don’t forget to turn back around. And help the next one in line, always stay humble and kind,” the lyrics read.
Dan Naranjo, funeral director at All Faiths Funeral Home, said witnessing the amount of support for the Foltz family has been amazing. He said the support came nationally and locally, as he received calls from people sending condolences and offering assistance.
“It’s a beautiful reminder how a beautiful life brings people together,” Naranjo said.
The service lasted about an hour, with sniffles, tears and silence filling church and the outside entrances.
Gary Perrott, a member of Greeley Fire and Rescue, said Foltz has helped put out fires to aid the fire and rescue team. Perrott said Foltz didn’t care what he was doing, he just loved helping people.
“He was very selfless,” Perrott said.
Foltz’ brother, Jordan, currently serves on the fire and rescue team and his grandpa used to serve, Perrott said.
The Fire and Rescue brought a large group of members to show support and express their condolences.
“We’d do this for anybody in our community,” Perrott said. “He meant a lot to all of us.”