GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Forest Hills Northern graduate Mike Sadler lived his life motto to the fullest.
“He found a prize in every day of the journey,” said his mom, Karen.
The Michigan State University punter helped others find that prize with his self-deprecating jokes.
“If this Cotton Bowl is riding on my athletic ability, then we might as well give them the trophy now,” Mike Sadler said prior to the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic.
He brought smiles to so many, and not just with his sense of humor. Mike Sadler paired his God-given abilities with a work ethic matched by few.
“It might be 3, 4, or 5 in the morning, he’d be up to getting his studies done or getting his papers done,” added Karen.
Mike Sadler earned his master’s degree in the time it takes most to earn an undergraduate diploma. The four-time Academic All-American was also one of the nation’s top punters on the field.
That all changed on July 23rd, 2016. Mike Sadler died in a car crash on his way home from a kicking camp in Wisconsin.
“He was my best friend,” his mother said, pausing.
At a time when many would have given up, Mike Sadler’s mom, dad and sister turned to his life motto, trying find the prize during the darkest of days.
“It gives me hope knowing that I can get up every day and make something good happen in Mike’s name,” Karen said. “And we are!”
His name now heads a foundation that is responsible for an annual summer football camp held at Forest Hills Northern High School, and a continuous high school and college scholarship program.
“Not just giving a scholarship, but to endow it because that’s the longevity,” said Karen.
The Michael Sadler Foundation is even working on creating a national scholarship.
Don’t forget the beer named in Mike Sadler’s honor. “Hey Diddle Diddle” is named after the play call when Mike Sadler turned a fake punt into a 25-yard gain against Iowa.
Both the West Michigan Whitecaps and Lansing Lugnuts have helped the Michael Sadler Foundation raise funds. For the first time this year, the group will also be represented at the Fifth Third River Bank Run.
“During this race I’ll probably be thinking of him a lot, praying through it,” said Jordyn Roberts, a Grandville native who met Mike while the two attended MSU. “(I’m) just using his inspiration as energy.”
Roberts is one of more than 45 River Bank Run participants who will don a Sadler Strong race jersey. She and others in the group are raising money that will go directly to support the foundation.
“I think he would tell us not to take it too seriously and to have fun,” Roberts said with a smile.
Karen knows there’s something else he’d tell the runners, too:
“Have a ‘Hey Diddle, Diddle’ on me after the race,” she said.
It’s yet another fitting prize in Mike Sadler’s journey.