Georgia Tech freshman punter Pressley Harvin met Sam Foltz a year ago. The impression may remain with him always. The influence certainly will be evident every time Harvin takes the field for the Yellow Jackets.
Harvin requested, and has been assigned, jersey No. 27, the number worn by the Nebraska punter who was killed in a car crash last July. Foltz’s death devastated the Nebraska football team, Cornhuskers fans and those who knew him. That included Harvin, who met Foltz at a kicking camp in South Carolina last year and then trained under him at the Kohl’s Kicking Camp in Wisconsin last July. Foltz was leaving the camp on a rainy night when he was killed in a single-car crash, along with former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler.
After the accident, Harvin switched his jersey number at Sumter (S.C.) High from 83 to 27 in honor of Foltz, and he’ll be able to keep it at Tech.
“It wasn’t just a thing where, OK, somebody passes, let’s just go ahead and let it go and just get over it,” Harvin said in May, before his arrival at Tech. “It wasn’t like that. It was a memorable thing for them that Kohl’s did. They encouraged everybody to wear 27 and 3 (Sadler’s number), which a lot of people did.”
Though Harvin did not know Foltz long, he described him as a mentor and good friend. At the time of his death, Foltz was remembered as outgoing, caring and ambitious. At Nebraska, he had gone from walk-on wide receiver to the Big Ten punter of the year.
“Everybody knows Sam Foltz,” Harvin said.
Told of Harvin’s gesture, Foltz’s mother, Jill, said she had heard of a few other punters who had done similarly.
“All of it is kind of a double-edged sword in the fact that it tears at your heart because you then realize how many lives Sam touched,” Foltz said. “But on the flip side of it, it’s a beautiful thing to know that they want to honor him and he made a difference in their life.”
Foltz said the family had received more than 1,000 cards of condolence. A room in their home in Nebraska is “jam packed,” she said, with notes and memorabilia from fans whom her son impacted. Among the mementoes were No. 27 jerseys from several Big Ten opponents, and also a No. 27 jersey from a football player in Germany that the sender had worn in Sam’s honor last season.
The response, she said, “has been bigger than we would have ever, ever guessed.”
Harvin may honor No. 27 quite well. He is the only non-senior in the history of Kohl’s Kicking Camps to be named the top punter in the national, invitation-only camp and also the only punter to earn the top ranking twice.
“Tell Pressley hello,” Foltz said, “and tell him that we’ll be rooting for him.”