By Randy York, The N-Sider
Sunday’s Night at the Lied Center went beyond Nebraska’s 27th annual award banquet that celebrates UNL’s best in academics, athletics and life skills over the past year.
Hannah Huston, a UNL graduate who finished third in the national television show The Voice, sang her version of Humble and Kind, using the same lyrics that Tim McGraw made famous. Huston’s choice honored the late Sam Foltz and his family in a meaningful, heartfelt way.
“When I was asked to sing in honor of Sam, I prayed,” Huston told me. “It’s an easy song to sing because it’s so true to who he was. It is very special because Sam came from such a small place but had such a big heart. That’s why the song makes perfect sense, especially for everyone across this state and beyond.”
The Foltz and Huston Families Sent Their Kids to Grand Island High School
Huston and her family have known Gerald and Jill Foltz, Sam’s parents, for a long time. The Foltz family lived in small-town Greeley, Neb., but sent their kids to the same high school in Grand Island that the Huston family attended.
“Humble and Kind was one of Sam’s favorite songs,” Huston said. “Since our families grew up with each other, we thought the song fit Sam, who lived in a small town, walked on at Nebraska and became one of the best punters in the country.”
For the Foltz family, Sunday provided another night of healing while honoring Sam’s precious No. 27 jersey.
Immediately after Sunday night’s program, I asked five student-athletes a quick question: What resonated most on this special night?
All five had the same answer – Huston’s touching voice that respected Foltz and how the fabled 27 Hero Leadership Award winners will honor Sam, the ultimate role model who exemplified humble and nice. “I’m glad I had some Kleenex,” one female student-athlete said. “He was so nice and so humble.”
Kick Holder Zach Darlington Earned One of the 27 Hero Leadership Awards
For those who follow the Huskers, it was nice to see Zack Darlington (above) among Sunday night’s Sam Foltz 27 Hero Leadership Award winners. A former quarterback, Darlington is, after all, the field goal and extra-point holder who replaced Foltz after last year’s tragedy.
“Tonight, the No. 27 took on special significance,” Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst said. “As we celebrate our 27th consecutive academic awards banquet, we also honor a very special student-athlete who proudly wore No. 27 on the gridiron – Sam Foltz.”
Before his death last July in a car accident, Sam embodied the values of the ideal student-athlete who excelled in academics, athletics and in life skills. A 2016 recipient of the Hero Leadership Award, Sam was much more than a college graduate and an NFL-caliber punter. He was a servant who left an incredible impression on thousands of people, including family, friends, teammates, fans, youth and countless others who saw Fresno State decline an offside penalty to honor No. 27 on national television.
“Sam truly embodied the primary characteristics of hero recipients – sportsmanship, teamwork, service-minded, caring, humble, genuine and consistently willing to go above and beyond,” said Keith Zimmer, Nebraska’s senior associate A.D. for Life Skills and the N Club.
New Award Will Recognize 27 Annual Sam Foltz Hero Leadership Honorees
“In a sense, Sam proudly served as an ambassador to the University of Nebraska and the entire state,” Zimmer said. “Moving forward, the Hero Award will forever be recognized as the Sam Foltz 27 Hero Leadership Award.
“With Sam’s name, it takes on even more prestige and significance. Going forward from now on, only 27 Husker student-athletes from all sports will be honored for emulating what Husker legend Sam Foltz symbolized.”
Collectively, this year’s Sam Foltz 27 Hero Leadership Award recipients “have mentored, encouraged and inspired young and old alike for well over 300 individual and team service projects during the year,” Zimmer said. “They have challenged teammates to serve more, enhanced accountability, and reinforced valuable life lessons that are built upon perseverance, resiliency, character development and responsible choices.”
Zimmer spoke on behalf of all student-athletes, coaches and fans who honor No. 27’s impact on Nebraska’s football program. “Thank you Sam, for leaving an incredible legacy,” he said. “No. 27 reminds all Husker student-athletes to continue to work hard, stay humble, and dream big!”
Huskers Honor the Inaugural Sam Foltz 27 Hero Leadership Award Class
Connor Adamsick, Gymnastics; Danielle Breen, Gymnastics; Karlye Cygan, Track & Field; Zack Darlington, Football; Kristen Dowell, Track and Field; Jordan Ehly; Swimming and Diving; Tanner Farmer, Football/Track & Field; Nate Fisher, Baseball; Jerald Foster, Football; Emily Gillman, Golf; Briana Holman, Volleyball; Taylor Kadavy, Softball; Megan Kuo, Gymnastics; Daniel Leal, Gymnastics; Jake McSteen, Baseball; Angela Mercurio, Track & Field; Allison Morris, Bowling; Alli Peterson, Soccer; Austin Post, Cross Country; Nina Radulovic, Rifle; Sanjaya Roy, Gymnastics; Aris Shino, Wrestling; Katt Sickle, Swimming & Diving; Maddie Simon, Basketball; Bonnie Smith, Cross Country; Madi Unzicker, Softball; Chase Wolinski, Track and Field.
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