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It was Tyler Sash’s decision to play football instead of basketball that contributed to his death, his mother said in a report on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that aired Sunday.

“I love football. I’m not trying to ruin football for anyone,” Barney Sash said in an emotional interview on the program. “My son went the football route. He could have played basketball. It wouldn’t have cost him his life.”

Sash, an Oskaloosa native, was discovered dead in his home by his mother in September. The cause was an accidental overdose of the pain-killers methadone and hydrocodone. But the former safety for the Iowa Hawkeyes and New York Giants also had had five documented concussions and his brain revealed signs of CTE when examined by experts at Boston University.

His former girlfriend, Heather Dickinson, who first met him when they were second-graders, told “Outside the Lines” that Sash often displayed the erratic and confused symptoms associated with that condition once he moved back to Oskaloosa after being cut by the Giants in August 2013.

“Sometimes he was sad and he couldn’t tell me why. Sometimes he was angry. He would lose his cell phone, his wallet, his keys,” Dickinson said.

“He was always researching concussions, and I think that’s ‘cause he was scared.”

Sash, who was all-state in both football and basketball at Oskaloosa High School, began taking pain medications after having two surgeries on his shoulders.

“He always used to tell me he was going to die young because he said he had the body of an 80-year-old,” Dickinson said.

Sash was 27 years old when he died.

Mobile users can tap here to watch the clip.

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