Geno Hayes, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker and Florida State standout, died Monday (April 26) after a two-year battle liver disease. He succumbed while awaiting a liver transplant. He was 33.
"We are deeply saddened to learn of Geno Hayes’ passing," the Bucs said in a statement. "During his time with the Buccaneers, Geno was a beloved teammate and often the first player to volunteer his time to our efforts in the community. He frequently visited schools and had a remarkable ability to connect with children. Losing him at such a young age is heartbreaking. Our thoughts are with his family."
For two years, Hayes didn’t share his grim diagnosis with anyone outside of his family and close circle of friends. He told ESPN that over-the-counter pain medications while in the NFL, and his family’s history of liver disease were contributing factors to his illness.
“I wanted more to know but didn’t want to be a burden,” told the network "I think maybe just to inspire a person going through something similar [who] needs that extra motivation. It may inspire someone to never give up."
In three seasons at Florida State University, Hayes finished his junior season second on the team in total tackles with 94, replacing future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks.
In his seven-year pro career, Hayes started 70 games for his career and made 401 tackles, had 10 sacks, six interceptions, and six forced fumbles during his NFL career. He was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 6th round of the 2008 NFL draft. He also played for the Chicago Bears, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Hayes is survived by his wife, Shevelle, and children Gemarii, 13, and Skyler, 8.