The Iowa head football coach speaks a day after the death of one of his former players. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
IOWA CITY, Ia. – In a joint effort between rival universities, there will be a "tasteful" tribute at Saturday's Iowa-Iowa State football game to remember former Hawkeye Tyler Sash.
At Kirk Ferentz's news conference Wednesday – delayed by 25 hours after word reached the football offices here Tuesday that Sash had been found dead in his Oskaloosa home – the Iowa coach remembered Sash as "extremely competitive. Just a high-energy player and did a lot of great things."
A visitation is scheduled for Thursday in Oskaloosa, with a Friday 1:30 p.m. memorial service (more details at the bottom of this post).
Iowa State officials reached out to Iowa on Wednesday morning to discuss paying tribute to Sash. Ferentz said on his radio show Wednesday night that there would be a moment of silence before Saturday's 3:45 p.m. nationally televised game on Fox, and that the Hawkeyes would do something special to honor Sash this weekend and for the rest of the season. Sash tied a school record with three interceptions in Iowa's 35-3 Cy-Hawk victory in 2009. On his radio show Wednesday night, Ferentz said there would be a moment of silence before Saturday's game, and that
"We're definitely going to find a tasteful way to pay tribute," Ferentz said. "His family was very receptive to that."
Ferentz got choked up discussing Sash, a first-team all-Big Ten Conference safety at Iowa in 2009 and 2010. He retold the story of his first exposure to Sash starring in a youth basketball league game in Sigourney against Ferentz's son, James, and future Iowa basketball star Matt Gatens.
"I remember coming home telling our staff, there's a kid that scored 36 of 40 points and single-handedly beat James' team," Ferentz said.
An autopsy on Sash performed Wednesday revealed "no acute trauma," according to the Iowa State Medical Examiner's office and a cause of death will require further investigation and laboratory tests. Though none of Iowa's current players took the field with Sash, who was 27, Tuesday's news rocked the coaching staff – particularly defensive coordinator Phil Parker, the defensive backs coach during Sash's four years at Iowa.
"You can imagine, yesterday was a tough day for everybody. For a guy like Phil who sat in the same room as Tyler for four years, there's a real bond that develops and a real closeness," Ferentz said. "And as a head coach, you miss that, frankly. That's the first thing that hit me in 1990 when I became a head coach."
Ferentz called Sash's "signature" moment as a Hawkeye his 86-yard interception return against Indiana in 2009 that ignited a rally to a 42-24 win and a 9-0 start to the season. Iowa won the Orange Bowl that year, and Sash turned pro after his 2010 redshirt junior season.
Sash's NFL career lasted 23 games. He won a Super Bowl in his rookie season with the New York Giants, then was cut by the team before the 2013 season after sustaining a concussion in their final preseason game. Although Sash received an injury settlement from the Giants, he never played in the NFL again.
How quickly things can change were summed up by Ferentz on Wednesday when discussing his son, James, who was cut by the Houston Texans on Friday then was scooped up by the Denver Broncos, who put him on their 53-man roster as their backup center for Sunday's opener against the Baltimore Ravens.
James Ferentz has never played in the NFL and last played at Iowa in 2012. It's a great tale of perseverance. He was working at Randy's Carpets in Coralville while training at the Iowa football complex with hopes of making an NFL roster. He was on the Texans' practice squad in 2014.
Kirk Ferentz started this week as a proud father – and when he spoke of his son, he could have been talking about Sash, too.
"The way the world works in the NFL, boom, something else happens on Sunday and he's on a different plane," said Ferentz, who knows the life well as a former NFL assistant coach for six seasons (1993-98). "Unfortunately, that's the reality of that profession and life in general, but that profession especially. I'm just happy he's gotten the opportunity, and after that it's whatever he makes of it.
"Not many players get to retire unfortunately, NFL players. Just enjoy every day while you can."
SERVICE INFORMATION FOR TYLER SASH
(From the University of Iowa)
Visitation and funeral services for Tyler Sash have been set, with Bates Funeral Chapel in Oskaloosa handling the arrangements.
Visitation will be held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at the Fellowship Bible Church in Oskaloosa.
A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11, at the Oskaloosa Community Stadium at the Lacey Complex in Oskaloosa, with a private family burial to follow.
Memorials may be made to the Oskaloosa Booster Club.
For further information, visit http://www.batesfuneralchapel.com/obituaries/