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First Downs and Second Guesses

Blog #148- August 1, 2017

July has not been a good month for the University of Nebraska football team in both 2016 and 2017.  Death took two beloved members of the team.

    Punter Sam Foltz was tragically killed in a car accident in Wisconsin in July 2016 while he was working a youth kicking camp.  Also losing his life in that accident was Mike Sadler, the punter from Michigan State.  Both players were honored during 2016 season games at their respective schools and by the opponents both at home and on the road.  It showed the good in people who mourned the deaths of young athletes taken away too soon in life.

    In early July 2017, Bob Elliott, the defensive backs coach of the Huskers, died from complications related to blood cancer.  He had been ill with some form of the disease for almost 20 years, and had beaten it numerous times.   The affliction had cost him the head football coaching position at the University of Iowa when Hayden Fry retired.   Elliott was the heir-apparent, but right before the announcement, he was struck with the illness and had to take himself
out of the picture.  Kirk Ferentz was named the head coach, and Ferentz just became the longest tenured head football coach in the Big Ten Conference this year.  

     Elliott had coaching stops at Kansas State and Notre Dame, among other schools.  He was brought to Nebraska
by new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who coached with Elliott while at Notre Dame.  Elliott quickly endeared himself to the Husker players and coaching staff.  He continued to recruit through May before asking to be re-assigned 
within the coaching staff to a defensive analyst position due to medical reasons.  His condition deteriorated quickly, and
he returned to his hometown of Iowa City where he went into hospice and died surrounded by family members.

    Accolades from coaching peers around the country extolled Bob's passion for the game and his great knowledge of defense.  But his best coaching trait was bonding with his players.  He was a taskmaster on the field, but off the field,
he was most interested in how the everyday lives of his players were progressing.  He coached his players to be excellent teammates and to become community leaders off the field.

    The death of a colleague leaves a huge hole within a coaching staff.  Elliott was only 63 at the time of his death, much too early to depart this earth.  But his death also brings into perspective how quickly things can change in someone's life when cancer or some other illness suddenly grabs you and doesn't let go.

     During my early morning runs, sometimes my thoughts turn to what would happen if I suddenly died and left my family.  I'm not afraid of death.  I consider the process simply leaving the physical body and crossing over to another spirit plane.  I believe you're the same person as you were when you were alive, only now you're in a spirit form.

      But I easily tear up because leaving the people you love is what hurts the most.  That eternal separation is the real killer, not the accident or disease that took you away.  

       So the old saying that you should live life to the fullest each day rings true.  Make the most of it.  Tell the people in your life that you love them.  You only have one life to live, so you might as well work it the best you can.

    Sam Foltz and Bob Elliott may be visiting and talking with each other in the next world.  I wouldn't be surprised if that's how the afterlife works.  If they are, there's probably a lot of reminiscing about life around Nebraska
football.  Husker fans miss both of them dearly.  But they also understand that life moves on, and there's another Husker football season to enjoy.  

        Life is for the living, but that life will always include the remembrance of the beloved player and humble coach who wore Husker red proudly, but left the game too soon.


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