One-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Geno Hayes entered hospice care recently amid his battle with liver disease.
ESPN’s Jenna Laine reported the news on Thursday. Hayes, 33, who played for the Bucs from 2008 to 2011, had been waiting for a liver transplant.
I can confirm that former Bucs linebacker Geno Hayes is in hospice care fighting liver disease. I'd spoken to him multiple times over the last several weeks while awaiting a liver transplant. Please keep him in your prayers.
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) April 22, 2021
Laine added that fans can reach out to Hayes through his Twitter handle, @55_AlwaysLive. She noted that Hayes had two children, whom he likes to highlight on social media.
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Hayes Emerged As a Starter for Bucs After Linebacker Great Retires
Hayes came into the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick with the Bucs from Florida State. He tallied 10 sacks, six forced fumbles, six interceptions, and 401 tackles in his seven-year career.
He became a regular starter for the Bucs in 2009 and notched a career-high in tackles, 98, that season. His opportunity came about because the Bucs moved on from Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks after 13 seasons according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Hayes made his career-high for sacks, four, in the 2010 season when he started all 16 games for the Bucs. He started 13 in 2009 and 2011.
After playing Tampa for four seasons, he played for Chicago in 2012 and Jacksonville from 2013 to 2014. He started 25 games for the Jaguars in two seasons and garnered 128 tackles those years.
The Tallahassee Democrat’s Jim Henry reported that Hayes’ condition “has deteriorated in recent weeks.” Hayes went to his parents’ Valdosta, Georgia, home for hospice care. His high school coach, Frankie Carroll, visited him on Sunday.
“Geno’s in need of prayers. He’s fighting for his life,” Carroll told Henry. “It’s tough. Geno’s a fun-loving guy.”
Hayes Became a Prized College Recruit From a Small Florida Town
Hayes grew up in Greenville, Florida, and played high school football at Madison County for Carroll. Hayes helped the team take state runner-up in 2003 and 2004. He had 30 sacks, 254 tackles, and three interceptions in those seasons.
The four-star recruit by Rivals chose FSU in 2005 after also receiving offers from Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Miami, USC, and Tennessee. Former FSU coaching legend Bobby Bowden recruited Hayes and visited his home in the process according to Henry.
“Geno could get through any gap when he blitzed, and he’d be right there to make the play,” Carroll told Henry. “Geno, of course, ranks up there among the best linebackers we’ve ever had. And he’s probably the best blitzing linebacker we’ve ever had.”
Hayes Shined at FSU and Left Early for the NFL Draft
Hayes went on to have a strong college career with the Seminoles for three seasons. He tallied 82 tackles, eight sacks, and two interceptions, including one for a touchdown, in his sophomore and junior seasons. He made the All-ACC team in 2007 his junior year and decided to leave FSU a year early for the NFL Draft.
“He had a motor, a knack for locating the ball. You always knew players (from Madison) are going to be physical, disciplined, and winning is important,” former FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews told Henry.
Hayes helped the Seminoles go 7-6 in 2006 and 2007, winning the Emerald Bowl in 2006. The NCAA vacated the Seminoles’ wins in 2007 due to rules violations.