LINCOLN — Drew Brown and Sam Foltz were close friends, and not just because they were Nebraska’s starting kicker and punter. Foltz was Brown’s holder on field goals and extra points. Foltz became fast friends with Brown when the latter arrived in 2014 and won the starting placekicking job as a true freshman.
Brown also gained a best friend.
“Like peas in a pod,” NU kicker Jamie Sutcliffe said.
Along with Brown and Foltz, Sutcliffe worked at the Kohl’s Kicking Camp over the weekend. It rained so hard Saturday afternoon that the camp was forced inside a high school gym, where Foltz talked to high school kids about his journey. Camp photographers snapped photos of Foltz talking and punting earlier in the day.
Late Saturday night, Foltz died as the passenger in a fiery car crash on a wet, two-lane road near Merton, Wisconsin. Brown learned of the crash before any other Husker.
“Drew was my first contact,” coach Mike Riley said Sunday night.
Brown was the last Husker to see Foltz before the crash. A Nebraska athletic department spokesman said Brown would not be talking Monday. Brown called Foltz his “hero” on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.
The duo — along with several other punters and kickers — were hanging out at a house after Saturday’s camp. Five members of the group — former Wisconsin punter Drew Meyer and Brown in one car, former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler, Foltz and LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye in the other — were going stay at Meyer’s house, which was nearby.
In a phone interview with the World-Herald on Monday, Meyer recounted the details of the night in which he lost two of his good friends — Foltz and Sadler, who was driving the other car.
Sadler, Foltz and Delahoussaye left for Meyer’s house first in a black Mercedes. Meyer said he asked if the trio wanted to wait for him to leave — “I was kind of parked in,” Meyer said — but they said no, their GPS could guide them to Meyer’s house.
Meyer and Brown left a few minutes later. They reached Meyer’s house and Sadler’s car wasn’t there. They called Foltz’s phone. No answer. They called the others’ phones. No answer. Meyer said they waited “20 or 30 minutes” before they went looking.
There is one road that leads into Meyer’s neighborhood, but two ways to get onto it.
“We retraced our steps a little bit — how we came into the neighborhood to make sure we didn’t miss anything,” Meyer said. “And then we looked at where the GPS potentially could have taken them.”
As they made a turn onto a road, they saw flashing lights — police lights.
“Immediately, I knew it had to be the turn that they went off of, knowing the landscape and geography,” Meyer said. There is an accident, Meyer said, “about once every two years” on Beaver Lake Road, where the crash occurred. The road is dark, and the pavement was wet from rain.
“Out here, there’s not many lights on streets,” Meyer said. “They’re not back roads, but it’s not like an urban area.”
Meyer and Brown approached police. They asked if there was an accident. There was — involving a black Mercedes. They were told Delahoussaye, who survived because he was in the back seat, had called 911 after escaping the vehicle.
Brown and Meyer gave their statements to authorities and went back to Meyer’s house, which Meyer estimated was three minutes away from the crash.
Although Foltz and Sadler were pronounced dead at the scene by authorities, Meyer said he and Brown didn’t know that, since police were still conducting their investigation. Meyer said the two found out Sunday morning that Foltz and Sadler had died. Other Husker teammates started to learn after that. Sutcliffe got a call from Brown personally.
Meyer said punters and kickers — even guys in the NFL — looked up to Foltz for the way he approached his craft and lived his life off the field. Because of major camps like Kohl’s, specialists tend to spend a lot of time together and get to know each other.
“It’s a very, very, very tight-knit community,” Meyer said. Wisconsin’s 2016 placekicker, Rafael Gaglianone, will wear No. 27 in honor of Foltz this year, according to a writer at the University of Wisconsin.
Meyer said it was obvious that Foltz and Brown were very close friends. They both could handle the big stage of college football, and they complemented each other’s personalities. Further, Foltz was Brown’s holder on field goals, which means they had even more of a connection.
“The relationship between a kicker and a holder is pretty special,” Meyer said. “It’s like a punter and a snapper. Those guys are your best friends, trying to make sure you’re in a spot to do the best job possible and your job is as easy as possible.”
When Foltz got hurt in the 2015 season opener against BYU — a Cougar player ran into his left plant leg — Brown was clearly upset. He missed two field goals that day.
“When he went down, it just got the best of me,” Brown said at the time. “Obviously, Sam’s definitely our best special teams player — he’s a weapon for our team. He’s one of my best friends, most importantly.”
Brown texted Meyer on Monday letting him know about Foltz’s funeral, which will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Grand Island’s Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. The church is just a few minutes from Grand Island Senior High, where Foltz was a prep football star.
“I know there will be a lot of guys trying to make it to that,” Meyer said.