EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Coaches, teachers, friends, teammates and family members gathered at Spartan Stadium Sunday afternoon to remember former Michigan State punter and West Michigan native Mike Sadler, who was killed a crash earlier this month.
“(Mike) would have been so proud, and so humbled to see all of you here … at Spartan Stadium, his second home,” Sadler’s mother, Karen Sadler, told the people assembled at the celebration of her son’s life. “As you know, Mike was no ordinary guy and this is no ordinary funeral. It’s extraordinary. … I thank you for being here to honor a man I’m so proud of.”
The event started with a Spartan Walk in honor of Sadler, his teammates all wearing T-shirts bearing his name and number and holding green balloons. As they walked, images of Sadler’s career and life flashed across the stadium’s video boards.
Sadler, 24, was killed July 23 in a car crash in Wisconsin. He was a graduate of Forest Hills Northern High School.
Speakers at Sunday’s event remembered him as hardworking and kind, but also for his famous sense of humor. MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis called him a “unique friend” to say the least.
Sadler’s younger sister, Katie Sadler, recounted pranks he played while in high school:
“For example, imagine Michael Phelps on the entry platform of an Olympic pool, ready to set a new world record. He’s ready to lunge into the water wearing just his goggles and a Speedo. Well, now picture my brother Mike impersonating Phelps on career day in exactly the same attire — and I mean Speedo, goggles, swim cap and that’s it,” she said.
She told the story of a joke he played on her in high school, making her think she was late — but also said he joined her for lunch every day of her freshman year of college.
“(Mike) knew how to be funny without putting anyone down,” she said.
“No one was ever offended by his jokes Everyone knew he meant well and just loved him,” said former Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook.
Beyond the jokes, Sadler was recalled as a man of integrity.
“If you can’t look yourself in the mirror and be proud, then what’s it worth?” Karen Sadler said her son believed.
She told a story of how her son stopped to sign an autograph for a little boy with only one leg even though he was expected on the team bus.
“He spent several minutes (talking with the boy). And normally, Mike would be afraid of getting to the bus late, but you know what, he took the time,” Karen Sadler said.
“He went into every conversation, every interaction with the intention to impact people,” said Travis Jackson, one of Sadler’s former teammates.
Sadler’s childhood soccer coach, who identified himself as Coach Rick, said Sadler “shined under pressure.” MSU head football coach Mark Dantonio said Sadler “was consistent as you can believe it. He was a competitor.”
Teammate Darqueze Dennard remembered Sadler’s intelligence, commenting on his competitive nature in the classroom as well as on the field. Sadler was a four-time Academic All-American at Michigan State and was headed to Stanford University in the fall to study law.
“His goal card was always completely filled out. He had a plan, and he wasn’t afraid to share his plan with people,” Dantonio said. “But he was very reflective in terms of what he was thinking about and how things were going for him. And then, basically how you were doing things a little bit, too. I was under the microscope as well when we sat down there a little bit.”
The Celebration of Life ended with video montage of Sadler both on and off the field set to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
“No. 3 will last forever in our hearts,” Dantonio said. “It’ll never stop. Always be a special number here.”