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Chicago — Big Ten Media Days kicked off on Monday, and a little more than a day after the deaths of former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler and Nebraska punter Sam Foltz, there was a more somber mood at the McCormick Place.

Sadler, 24, and Foltz, 22, were killed on Saturday night in Merton, Wis., after the car Sadler was driving lost control on wet pavement and struck a tree.

Both Sadler and Foltz were pronounced dead at the scene. A second passenger, LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye, 21, of New Iberia, Louisiana, was transported by ambulance to Waukesha Memorial Hospital for treatment and released Sunday night.

“It’s with heavy heart and great sadness that I kick off here this morning,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “Obviously, the tragic news the passing of Sam Foltz and Mike Sadler over the weekend. On behalf of Northwestern, our football program and all our players we’d like to express all the thoughts and prayers to their families, Coach (Mark) Dantonio, Coach (Mike) Riley and the Spartan and Husker families on their tragic loss.

“We recruited Mike and know him well. And just sad, tragic news and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

Sadler, a Grand Rapids native who attended Forest Hills Northern High, is Michigan State’s only four-time Academic All-American and ranked among Michigan State’s all-time leaders in punts (second, 268) and punting yards (second, 11,307). He was a member of Michigan State’s 2013 Big Ten champions that went on to win the Rose Bowl.

Sadler earned first-team All-America honors from ESPN.com in 2013 and was a 2013 Ray Guy Award semifinalist, an annual awarded presented to the nation’s top college punter.

“We join the Nebraska and Michigan State communities in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families, teammates, coaches, administrators and friends who have been impacted by the tragic loss of Sam Foltz and Mike Sadler,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in a statement. “While we are deeply saddened by their untimely loss, we also recognize the impact they had and the success they achieved as students, athletes, citizens and representatives of their respective communities and institutions.

“On behalf of the Big Ten, we greatly appreciate the enduring contributions made by these two young men, and our hearts go out to their families during this difficult time.”

Added Northwestern running back Justin Jackson: “It just goes to show you have to cherish the time with your brothers. … I really feel for them.”

Nebraska coach Mike Riley was scheduled to address the media on Monday along with players Tommy Armstrong Jr., Josh Banderas and Jordan Westerkamp. However, they decided on Sunday not to attend.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio will take the podium at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday and later will have a one-hour media session at 3:45 p.m. Players Riley Bullough, R.J. Shelton and Josiah Price will have their interview session at 5 p.m.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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