IOWA CITY, Iowa – An emotional Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz met with the media on Wednesday, a day after learning former player, Tyler Sash, passed away at 27.
Ferentz coached Sash from 2007-2010 before the Oskaloosa native went on to win a Super Bowl with the New York Giants. The coach spoke about the first time he saw Sash as an athlete, what he meant to the program and how his loss impacted the Hawkeye program.
KIRK FERENTZ: First of all, I appreciate, all of us appreciate your understanding about yesterday’s postponement. Like all of us, I think our thoughts and prayers are certainly with the Sash family. A very difficult ordeal to deal with right now. I want to thank our fans, everybody involved, former players, everybody that’s showing support to Tyler’s family and the Hawkeye family, and that includes many people from Iowa State, as well, fans and athletes, coaches from there who have reached out through social media, and fully appreciate and understand that they’ve gone through some very difficult times, as well. Their support is very much appreciated and very, very special.
I want to thank you for your respect, also, just in dealing with this story. It’s a tough story, certainly, and I know a lot of great things have been covered and written about Tyler and his career and just memories about him. He certainly was a special young man in our program, had a great career here, was extremely competitive, just a high-energy player and did a lot of great things, and you can talk about a lot of things that Tyler did here. Certainly the Indiana play in 2009 was a signature moment for him, and I’m still not sure how that all took place.
But it’s kind of interesting, as I think about him, my first exposure to Tyler was actually at a little league basketball game, I think it was in Signary (phon), and I can’t tell you what grade he was in, but it was a youth league basketball game. His team — our son James was on the team opposite of him. On that team was Matt Gatens and John Gilmore, two pretty good athletes, and Tyler’s team beat them 40-36 that day, and I remember coming home and telling our staff, I saw a kid that scored 36 of 40 points that day single-handedly beat James’s team. That was my first exposure to him.
I remember calling him, he was on his way back from the state track meet his junior year, and that’s when we offered him a scholarship, and we certainly had a great time with him after that. We’re very appreciative of the opportunity we’ve had to have him in the program, and to lose one of our own, it’s a tough thing as you may well imagine.
Q. Regarding Tyler, did you ever get a chance to talk to him after his NFL career ended, and what were some of your final conversations with him?
KIRK FERENTZ: Not afterwards, and typically I would — without getting into great detail, probably his closest relationship, and this is really common with our players is with the position coach Phil Parker, and that’s really typical, Phil and Bob talk a lot, and then the other conduit usually is Chris. They’re the two that are the biggest.
So to that point you can imagine, yesterday was a really tough day for everybody, but for a guy like Phil who sat in the same room with Tyler for four years, there’s a real bond that develops and a real closeness, 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. You have to work really hard to find that fix, get that fix, I guess, or satisfy that fix. That’s the greatest thing about coaching is being in the same room with guys.
It’s a hard thing. It’s a hard thing. But it pales in comparison to the family, what the family is going through right now, all of his close friends. It’s a hard deal.
Q. Do the players feel the impact of this, even though they never played with him? Are they feeling this?
KIRK FERENTZ: I’m going to say fortunately, because that’s not the right word to use, but the guys on our team right now, there’s distance there, but you think about the guys that played with him, 2009 and 2010 especially, the Praters, the Angerers, go right down the list of guys that were in the huddle on that defensive football team, and that’s a hard thing.
It’s hard at any time, but Tyler was way too young. That’s hard, and you can imagine as a parent just how that feels. It’s a tough deal.
Q. Have you talked to his family and friends?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, yeah.
Q. What have you said to them?
KIRK FERENTZ: It’s a tough — what can you say, other than we’re all feeling for you. If there’s anything we can do, we’re going to try to pay tribute to Tyler in a tasteful way, and they were okay with that. That’s about it, but it’s just a hard thing.
Q. Iowa State, if they were to reach out to the family and to you guys about how to handle Saturday, did you have any —
KIRK FERENTZ: We have not yet, but I would certainly welcome that call, and not surprised. It’s a first-class thing to do.
Q. Do you have any plans for either a decal or a —
KIRK FERENTZ: We haven’t decided yet, but we’re definitely going to find a tasteful way to pay tribute, and his family was very receptive to that, so we’ll run it by them first, but they were very receptive to that.