On Iowa by Marc Morehouse

Where did Tyler Sash go?

My conversations with a cocky, funny and now tragic Iowan

Iowa's Tyler Sash (9) treis to avoid  Iowa State's Alexander Robinson (33) and Kelechi Osemele (72) after pulling down an interception during the first quarter of their game Saturday, September 12,2009 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)
Iowa's Tyler Sash (9) treis to avoid Iowa State's Alexander Robinson (33) and Kelechi Osemele (72) after pulling down an interception during the first quarter of their game Saturday, September 12,2009 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Before the news broke in 2012 that Tyler Sash would be suspended by the NFL for using Adderall, I received a text from Tyler Sash.

He laid it all out. Why he did it. How angry he was for allowing that to happen. He owned it and served his punishment.

Then, after the 2012 season, Sash was cut. He always intended to work out and earn his way back into the league. You know that didn't happen. Today, we all learned Tyler Sash's life ended. He was found dead this morning in his Oskaloosa home.

All we know about it is that he was 27 and he was alone and that is jarring.

Sash had a pretty straightforward exterior during interviews. You wanted X-and-Os? He gave you X-and-O. You wanted to have a little fun? Maybe. He better know you and trust you. I think he reached that point during his years at Iowa, the roaring late 2000s.

That Indiana ricochet interception (the first ricochet came off the back of his helmet, by the way) and return for a TD, that happened on Halloween 2009.

“Coach called it a miracle,” Sash said before the 2010 Orange Bowl. “There's a picture in the complex and someone was dressed as Jesus in the background. They were saying it was a miracle and there's a picture of me and Jesus in the background. It was funny.”

Here's me during that Orange Bowl interview: Have you seen that thing on the Internet? It's a picture of you with a bunch of rainbows shooting out and says “Tyler motherbloooooooop Sash?”

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“Yeah, I saw that. I didn't know what it meant,” he said. “You could take it two different ways. I didn't know if I was the next Power Ranger or if it meant something else.”

What does mom think of that?

“I don't think she's seen it. I don't think she'd like it.”

Wouldn't it look good on a T-shirt?

“That's for the 18-to-22-year-olds to decide.”

Here's me asking about the “Sash is Trash” T-shirts a few of his friends who went to ISU wore during the 2009 game at Ames (the game Sash picked off three passes): I know there's a funny story there and I know you know those guys, or I think you know those guys.

“It was a high school thing at first,” Sash said. “We would play against our rival Pella and they would and they would always bust me and give me a hard time. And now that Iowa State is our rival, they continued the tradition with 'Sash is Trash.'”

Me: Do you have one of those?

“I don't have one.”

Me: Do you want one?

“I would like one someday, but I don't want one right now.”

Interviews with Tyler Sash

I mentioned Sash picked off three passes against Iowa State in 2009. Brett Greenwood, the free safety to Sash's strong safety, picked off two. (Please click the link on the Pat Angerer tweet for an update on Greenwood and watch the video until the end.)

Here's what I wrote. Both gentlemen were kind enough to humor me and play along.

It was a little “Starsky and Hutch.”

Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood slid over the hood of their red sports car in their leather jackets and busted everything in the air Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.

It was a little '70s detective show. It was a little of the 2004 movie with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. It was a buddy movie with each star taking a turn in front of the camera.

“I'm probably the Ben Stiller. He's more of the Owen Wilson type,” said Greenwood as he pointed at Sash.

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Starsky and Hutch. Sash and Greenwood. Interception and pick.

“A little bit,” Sash said of the “Starsky and Hutch” reference. “You could say that if you want.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz didn't want Sash to leave early for the NFL, Sash told me at the combine in 2011. Sash also said it wasn't a bitter departure.

Here's an excerpt from a combine story I wrote in 2011:

“He [Ferentz] wanted me to stay,” Sash said Sunday from the NFL combine. “From a leadership standpoint, obviously, we lost a lot of guys on defense. We have four guys here from the defense and I feel like (former teammate Brett) Greenwood should've gotten an invite being a four-year starter.”

This was the first in the last three seasons that didn't have Sash under the knife for a shoulder surgery. He had both shoulders undergo MRIs on Sunday, which turned his medical exam into an ordeal. As a fourth-year junior, much of his peer group had departed or was departing Iowa.

“He [Ferentz] told me at the end of the day, whatever I decided once a Hawk, you'll always be a Hawk,” Sash said. “We're going to have your back no matter what you decide.”

Pain was a constant. He suffered two documented concussions in the NFL. I know he took some friendly fire from a teammate at practice at least once. Two shoulder surgeries. At that Orange Bowl, I asked him about throwing his body into being a box safety.

“I think everybody at the end of the year is probably beaten up and I'm not anymore particularly than anyone else,” Sash said. And then he paused and laughed, “I mean, no.”

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Did Sash ever recover from being cut from the NFL? The timeline shows ventures lost, including a sneaker shop in Des Moines. There was the 2014 arrest in Oskaloosa for public intox and interference with official acts.

Was Sash falling or fading or any one of those sad words for lost?

The last time I saw him was before the Iowa State game last year at Kinnick. We shared some genuine laughs, kind of like the old Iowa safety days, which, sadly now, wait . . . AREN'T OLD AREN'T AT ALL OLD AND WILL NEVER BE OLD.

The late dispatches were secondhand. The NFL charge never got out of the blocks. Sash lost a lot of weight. I'm not sure he had a job, and I'm not sure where his finances were beyond not being paid to play football for the NFL. There was a mention of working toward a real estate license.

I asked Sash once what his major was. He laughed and said, “Football.”

I laughed. I didn't like the answer, but I didn't tell him to throw down and anchor and get something out of it. I laughed and now I really hate everything about that answer.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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