How do you capture emotional moments in sports? You trust your instincts, and follow the lead of those playing the game.
That’s just part of the story behind a pretty special Nebraska Football tweet, which marked a truly incredible moment in the young 2016 college football season.
On the Husker’s first punt of the season, the team honored punter Sam Foltz, who weeks earlier died in a car accident, along with fellow punter and former Michigan State player Mike Sadler. Instead of sending out a full special teams squad of 11, the team chose to send just ten — honoring their late teammate. Officials called a delay of game penalty, which opponent Fresno State declined. Nebraska fans honored Foltz with cheers and tears.
It was easily the most emotional scene of week one in college football, and perhaps of the past few seasons. It was also a heartfelt, agonized-over, tear-jerking moment, which quickly spread from Memorial Stadium to social media.
The same emotion shone through in how the team chose to share this gesture with its social media followers. The team’s tweet (see below) was simple, but absolutely on point for the moment — an equally heartfelt and tear-jerking piece of social media poetry.
And not surprisingly, it spread like wildfire across Twitter and beyond.
“There’s been talk for a few weeks about that game, and how best to honor Sam,” Kelly Mosier, assistant athletic director of digital communication at the University of Nebraska, told Fourth and 140. “I always let the players and coaches take the lead, and then try and tell their story. This was no different.”
Mr. Mosier, who wrote the tweet, says there was extra care taken with this particular post, given the magnitude of the moment. It was something he wanted to get just right.
“I wrote a first draft of the tweet on Wednesday [Aug. 31], saved it in my drafts on my phone, and would go back to it all week to reread it,” Mosier says. “It was a special moment. I wanted to be sure to do it justice, knowing that everyone else would be talking about what happened. I wanted to give the why it happened. And tell the guys’ story on it.”
It’s not always easy separating work from emotion, and this story is filled with it. Nebraska is a close-knit community, and Mosier knew it would affect him as much as anyone else — maybe more.
“I choked up every time I opened my drafts, so that’s how I knew I had it right.
“Sam had such a huge impact on so many people here that his passing has been pretty emotional. “But, a team is a family. And when things are tough, you lean on your family,” Mosier says. “At Nebraska, we have a big team that extends to a very passionate fan base. So the family we lean on is very big and very supportive.”
That family got a little bigger Saturday, thanks to the touching tribute and the tweet heard ’round college football. At publish time, Mosier’s beautifully crafted post has generated more than 37,000 retweets and nearly 70,000 likes. It’s also been used in numerous news stories, as appropriate — and poetic — background for readers.
“Social has been a great way to remember Sam,” Mosier says. “Everything he stood for. And tell others about how special he was. I hope I was able to do my small part of that on Saturday.”
Leading social media is not easy work. When you hear about the people behind the accounts, it’s usually because of some unfortunate misstep. But there are real people running these accounts — folks like Kelly Mosier and his staff at the University of Nebraska — people with a genuine passion for what they do and the teams, leagues and players they represent.
Their work matters — to them and to sports. Thanks for the reminder, Kelly.
And… thank you all for being fans.