Former Tampa Bay Bucs linebacker Geno Hayes passed away at age 33 on Monday. WCTV in Tallahassee was the first to report the news. Hayes, a former Florida State star, battled Stage 3 liver disease for two years. He went into Hospice care in Valdosta, Ga. last week.
Hayes told ESPN Bucs beat reporter Jenna Laine last week that he had been hospitalized over 20 times due to liver disease and was on the waiting list for a transplant.
“The first diagnosis they gave me was alcoholic cirrhosis,” Hayes told ESPN. “But when we dug in deeper, it became just chronic liver disease, because I don’t drink like that. If I did drink, it was just like wine or something like that. But my body is made different. And that’s what [my doctor] said — ‘Everybody’s made different.'”
“I went from 220 [pounds] to 150,” Hayes said. “That was when I was first diagnosed.”
Former Bucs LB Geno Hayes – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Hayes said ESPN he suspected the use of nonprescription pain medications (NSAIDs) is what brought on his condition. His family also had a history of liver disease. Hayes revealed that he did not take pain killers prescribed by the team and instead took over-the-counter pain medications during his playing days but never more than the recommendations on the bottle.
The Seminoles star wore No. 10 in college to honor his idol, Bucs legend Derrick Brooks, who wore that number at FSU. Hayes recorded 139 tackles as a two-year starter at Florida State, including 29.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and a pick-six.
The Bucs drafted Hayes in the sixth round in 2008. He played in 56 games in four years with 42 starts at weakside linebacker.
Hayes recorded 257 tackles, 36 tackles for loss, 15 pass breakups, seven sacks, four forced fumbles, four interceptions, including a pick-six, and a fumble recovery in Tampa Bay. He would sign with Chicago for the 2012 season before ending his NFL career with a two-year stint in Jacksonville.
He played in 56 games in four years with 42 starts at weakside linebacker. Hayes played seven seasons in the NFL, retiring at the age of 28. He recorded 401 tackles, 48 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, six interceptions, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one defensive touchdown during his NFL career.
Hayes leaves behind his wife, a 12-year old son and an eight-year daughter.