Former FSU star linebacker Geno Hayes, 33, dies after illness
Former Florida State star linebacker Geno Hayes has passed away at the age of 33 following a battle with chronic liver disease.
Hayes, a Madison County High graduate, was one of the best defenders for the Seminoles at the end of Bobby Bowden's tenure at Florida State, starting for two years before declaring for the NFL Draft after the 2007 season.
Hayes was a four-star recruit coming out of Madison and was one of the most sought-after linebackers in the country. He chose Florida State over Tennessee and others, and after getting backup duty as a freshman in 2005, he worked his way into a starting spot by his sophomore season.
The very first game of that year was a 13-10 win at Miami in which Hayes had eight tackles and 2 1/2 tackles for loss. He finished that year with 59 tackles, including 12 for loss and three sacks.
Then, as a junior, he produced his most memorable highlight as a Seminole when he stepped in front of a Matt Ryan pass and returned it 38 yards for an upset-clinching win at No. 2 Boston College.
For the season, Hayes finished with 80 tackles, 17.5 for loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles and that one memorable interception.
He was then selected in the sixth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but quickly worked himself into a starting role in the NFL as well. He finished his professional career with 401 tackles, 10 sacks, six forced fumbles, six interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.
He played for the Bucs, the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Hayes' last year in the NFL was 2014, and he has been battling health problems over the last year. He reportedly was seeking a liver replacement before being moved to Hospice care last week.