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Mike Sadler's Impact Continues

One of the things Mike Sadler cared about more than anything had nothing to do with academics or athletics. He simply wanted to help people.

During his time on earth, Mike Sadler worked extremely hard to be the best person he could be. He was a driven young man who was thoroughly accomplished in the classroom and on the football field.

Sadler became the first student-athlete in Spartan history to earn Academic All-American honors four separate times. Yet, one of the things he valued most in his life had nothing to do with his accomplishments surrounding school or football.

He wanted to help people, and nearly four years after his July 23, 2016, death, his legacy continues to inspire and impact so many people through the Michael Sadler Foundation.

“I know he worked really hard to get to where he was at and he helped people along the way,” said Karen Sadler. “That’s the essence of Mike that we try to carry on in his absence.”

The foundation’s mission is to inspire students, empower them, and help them realize their potential, but more than that, it is designed to carry on the work Mike did throughout his life.

“We’ve created the foundation to continue the work he began,” Sadler said.

The creation of the foundation has developed programs and awards that recognize student-athletes with strong character. It has grown to encompass three outreaches -- the first being scholarships and awards which recognize academic achievement and athletic excellence. For example, The Michael Sadler Award of Excellence Scholarship at Forest Hills Northern High School, Mike’s alma mater, is presented to a graduating student “who not only embodies Michael’s passion for excellence in academics and athletics, but also shares Michael’s character, compassion, spirit, and wit.”

“It’s awarded to somebody who has proven him or herself as working really hard to be as good as he or she can be at academics, athletics, and demonstrating strong character,” Sadler says.

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It has taken the better part of four years but is happy to announce that this year, the foundation will finish endowment with The National Football Foundation to create the Michael R. Sadler Scholar-Athlete Award. The award will be presented to a Campbell Trophy finalist who is a top scholar-athlete in the nation. Mike earned the John McConnell Award when he was a finalist.

“To finally complete this endowment is huge, and Mike would be unbelievably proud and humbled to know that his name will be given out on one of those awards every year,” said Sadler. “It’s a dream come true.”

The Michael Sadler Foundation has adopted the mantra “The Prize is in the Journey” because that’s what life was about for him. The message embodies the Sadler Six Pillars, which include getting a good education, setting goals and aiming high, practicing integrity and humility, choosing friends wisely, being compassionate with everyone, and finding a reason to laugh each day. They’ve integrated these steps into a program called GameChang3rs, which helps kids in grades K-12 to begin building legacies of their own.

“We train 11th and 12th graders to deliver the content, so they have to become familiar with Mike and what he stood for and how he delivered when he was here,” said Sadler. “Then they present to the younger kids in a mentoring capacity … it’s a super-powerful program.”

Another outreach, The Legacy Leadership Conference, was supposed to premiere this spring, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was canceled and will instead debut in 2021. The event provides keynote speakers who battled have real-life adversity to reach the top of their respective fields.

“The goal is for high school students who are college or work bound to understand that they will face adversity, and when they do, it’s okay. They should expect it, and when it happens, hopefully, they will reflect on what they learned at the Legacy Leadership Conference and know that they can handle it,” said Sadler. “They don’t have to fail because they had some roadblock come up. They will have tools to navigate adversity going forward.”

“These initiatives of the Michael Sadler Foundation continue to inspire people to be their best selves and live life to the fullest by “Finding the Prize on the Journey.” No doubt, #3 be proud of how his legacy lives on.”

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