To preface this entry a bit, I had quite the internal struggle whether to post this work or not. I thought long and hard, weighing how proud am I am with the simple way of memorializing Sam verses coming off as insensitive towards the gravity of this tragedy. In the end, I want to present this simply as what I created and how it was used in a way to honor and remember Sam rather than touting how many millions of people saw the work we put in to the remembrances.
Four characters – two letters and two numbers – put together hastily in the midst of a tragedy, intended to be utilized for a matter of days. By the end of a football season, tens of millions of people have experienced my simple tribute to Sam’s legacy. I will be forever honored to have had such an impact, but I’d rather have Sam back.
Sam Foltz tragically passed in a car accident over the summer of 2016. For those that knew Sam, it was devastating, so much so that even after an entire football season – some six or seven months later – I still paused several times putting this post together, choking back tears. Sam was everything that is Nebraska Football; a local kid that walked on to the team, only to become one of the nation’s top prospects and indelible leader of the team. He was so much more than just a punter, but embraced the humor behind the stigma, constantly reminding people that “punters are people, too.”
Within hours of learning of the passing, tears rolling down my cheeks, I was in the office coordinating with some key members of the football staff on how we were to announce the tragedy. For my part, I wanted to present something simple, something classic, something red on a solid black background. After about an hour of trying to get something put together, I had no idea how far the SF27 mark would go.
Initially designed to be used as an avatar for our social media accounts, it quickly began popping up all over the internet. Within hours of the announcement, our timelines were flooded with people using the image as their own avatar. Media outlets, local and national, were using the image with their posts of the tragedy. It was clear that the simplicity spoke to a larger audience.
Within days of Sam’s passing, a committee convened to figure out how to continue through the season with Sam still part of the team. The SF27 mark was a first step, and clearly the primary mark as a symbol. I was able to get ahold of Sam’s jerseys, shoes and locker prior to presenting the items to his parents for his funeral. With the help of the Big Ten Conference, I helped put together a commemorative coin that would be used for coin tosses throughout the season.
Adidas had contacted me for the artwork, wanting to include it in all our gear for the coaches and player; hats, polos, base layers, uniforms, etc. IMG, the sponsorship rights holder for Nebraska Athletics, was inundated with partners wanting to utilize the artwork within their condolences. Other schools within the NCAA community, many we would not face during the season, also spread their condolences with my work. Major media outlets (ESPN, NBC, CBS, Bleacher Report and the like) wanted to tell Sam’s story and using the assets I put together; each week, a new tribute to air during the national television broadcast.
One gauge I have as to the success of a project is the number of people stealing artwork for their own use. Throughout the year, we’ve had dozens of people/companies steal the artwork for posters, shirts, hats and countless other items. Though many of these idiots had no ill-will intended, there were groups attempting to profit from the tragedy.