IOWA CITY, Iowa – We’re taught in journalism school to keep sources at arm’s length. It’s OK to share a relationship, just try not to make it personal. It compromises your ability to report.
It’s a valid lesson. Friendship can interfere with objective coverage. But, we’re human.
In 18 plus years of writing about Iowa football, I’ve hit it off with a handful of players to the point where it goes beyond interviews. We haven’t always been in regular contact, but we check in with each other. We’re friends.
Tyler Sash was one of those guys. I have a feeling I wasn’t the only reporter to share that bond. It was easy to interview him, the guard was down, it was just a conversation.
If it had ended there, the news of Sash’s death on Tuesday at the age of 27 still would have hit me hard. Fortunately, I learned more about the Oskaloosa native beyond press conferences.
I did business with Sash shortly after he announced he was leaving Iowa for the NFL with a year of eligibility. He came to my house here in Iowa City that winter of 2011. He sat at my dining room table.
We talked. Topics ranged from his time at Iowa to his dreams for the future. They were big.
I conducted business with many Hawkeyes throughout the years. Most of them kept it at that, which was fine. That’s what we were there for.
Sash, much like the genuine kid I interviewed many times, asked questions about my family with sincere interest. There were no barriers.
Most of what we shared isn’t for public consumption. It’s personal and really has no bearing on our story, especially at a time of such sorrow.
All you really need to know is that my son, Alex, now 10, adores Sash. And that says a whole lot about a guy who, then in his early 20s with the adulation of Hawkeye fans and an NFL career on the horizon, stayed grounded and humble.
Sash talked with Alex about his soccer team and school. He asked about his friends. We took pictures.
Alex owns a game-used Iowa Sash jersey he begged me to buy. Some of the best money I ever spent. He was hoping to get it autographed.
As I write this, Alex is at school. I have no idea how I will deliver the news about someone he idolized. Maybe he knows if word reached his classroom, and in that case, we’ll shed tears together right when he walks through our front door. I’ll know by the look on his face when he gets off of the bus.
Life is precious. It’s sad that we have to be reminded like this.
Rest in Peace, Tyler Sash. You will be missed by many and certainly by a family on the East Side of Iowa City that you generously touched with your kindness.