Former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler, a four-time Academic All-American who ranks among the top punters in school history, died in a single-car accident in Wisconsin Saturday night, police said. He was 24.
Nebraska senior punter Sam Foltz, the reigning Big Ten punter of the year, was also killed in the crash that occurred in Merton, Wisconsin, according to the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department. They were working at a kicking camp over the weekend in Wisconsin.
Police said Sadler was the driver and that speed appeared to be a factor in the crash. Sadler was pronounced dead at the scene, as was Foltz, 22, who is from Greeley, Nebraska.
A second passenger, LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye, 21, of New Iberia, Louisiana, was transported by ambulance to Waukesha Memorial Hospital for treatment. He was released on Sunday.
Police said the vehicle was traveling westbound on Beaver Lake Road in Merton, lost control on wet pavement, left the road and struck a tree.
The accident, which occurred at about 11:45 p.m., is still under investigation by the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened to hear the extremely tragic news about Mike Sadler’s death. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sadler family, his teammates, friends, coaches and Spartan Nation," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. "We also express our deepest sympathies to the family of Sam Foltz and the Nebraska program for their loss.
“Mike impacted so many people not only as a football player, but also from an academic standpoint and in the community as well. The world has lost a rising star who dreamed big and was accomplishing those dreams, one after another. He was one of those people that brightened your day. I always say to try and be a light, and he truly was a light in this world."
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said the loss of Sadler and Foltz marked a sad day for Michigan State, Nebraska and all of college football.
“Mike was the epitome of a student-athlete, excelling in the classroom and on the field, while his quick wit brought a smile to everyone’s face. Most importantly, he represented Spartan Nation with great class, embracing his place as a role model for both kids and adults alike," Hollis said. "On a personal note, he was more than just a student-athlete to me; he was a friend. His ability to make everyone feel special was but just one of his many special qualities. And that’s the reason his impact will be felt by everyone who knew him for years to come."
Sadler, a Grand Rapids native who attended Forest Hills Northern High, was a four-year starter from 2011-2014 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. He was also one of the most unique personalities on the team and was known for his humorous takes on social media.
One of his more noteworthy moments came during a game against the Cornhuskers when he petted an imaginary cat in reference to the popular Twitter parody account of then-Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. Sadler had a humorous back and forth that week with “FakeBoPelini” and when he pinned a punt deep inside Huskers territory, he pet the cat Pelini holds in the Twitter picture for the “FakeBoPelini” account.
Condolences from former Spartans teammates and coaches came flooding in on Sunday.
"You were the definition of inspiration, leadership, intelligence, wit, and above all us my brother. RIP @Sadler_3," Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Darien Harris said.
“@Sadler_3 was one of the greatest men that I had the honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with and grow with. RIP brother,” said Spartan defensive back Demetrious Cox.
"One of the smartest and funniest guys I have ever been around... Man this is crazy right now," said Miami Dolphins cornerback Tony Lippett.
“Man I've lost an amazing friend and brother..... I pray for the Sadler family,” said Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman William Gholston.
After graduating from Michigan State, Sadler had a tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in May 2015. He was planning to enroll in Stanford Law School this fall.
Nebraska coach Mike Riley, quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., linebacker Josh Banderas and wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp will not participate in Big Ten Media Days scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Chicago, Nebraska announced in a statement.
Funeral arrangements and services have yet to be announced.