Former Florida State and Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker Geno Hayes has died at the age of 33. Hayes had been diagnosed with liver disease two years ago and was placed on the transplant waiting list last December.
Eugene Antonio Hayes was a former coveted blue-chip recruit who committed to play for legendary head coach Bobby Bowden. Hayes didn’t stay in Tallahassee long, playing mostly special teams his freshman year in 2005 and backup linebacker behind A.J. Nicholson before starting the next two seasons and then declaring for the NFL Draft.
“He was a good one, a linebacker who could run. Everyone was looking for that speed,” former Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden told the Tallahassee Democrat.
Hayes’ most memorable play in the Garnet and Gold came in 2007 as he jumped in front of a Matt Ryan pass and took it back for a pick-six, ending No. 2 Boston College’s national title hopes along with Ryan’s Heisman Trophy campaign.
Hayes finished his Seminole career with 156 tackles, 29.5 for a loss of 113 yards, eight sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, seven pass breakups, and two total touchdowns.
In 2007 he was named first-team All-ACC, and in both 2006 and 2007 he was named an honorable All-American. Florida State may not have won a lot from 2005-2007 but Hayes’ playmaking ability and hard hitting earned him love from Seminole nation.
Hayes would go on to be drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In similar fashion to his college career, Hayes played a reserve role as a rookie before earning a starting nod, taking over the weakside linebacker spot from legend, Hall of Famer, and fellow FSU alum Derrick Brooks. While those are impossible shoes to fill Hayes didn’t shrink from the challenge. He answered the call with 98 tackles that season, including 15 tackles for loss, three sacks, 12 QB hits, two interceptions, and a forced fumble. In all, Hayes started 70 games in the NFL for three teams across seven seasons and totaled more than 400 tackles before calling it quits after the 2014 season.
But we cannot forget Hayes’ impact on the community, or talk about who he was as a person:
Back in December, Geno Hayes and I were texting while he was waiting to be admitted to the hospital. He met a woman there, struggling with insurance. He kept telling the folks who were trying to whisk him off to a room, “Put her on my insurance.”— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) April 27, 2021
That’s who he was.
Geno was an old, old soul. This wasn’t his first go-around with the universe. He loved oxtail, cigars and history. He didn’t care who you were or where you came from or what your stature was. If you kept your word and did right by people, you were alright with him.— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) April 27, 2021
You never forget the people who go out of their way to be kind to you, when you have little to offer in return.— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) April 22, 2021
The Buccaneers released a statement, noting how Hayes spent much of his time giving back:
He leaves behind his wife Shevelle and his two children Gemarii, 13, and Skyler, 8. Seminole nation will miss Hayes dearly, and his family is in our thoughts and prayers.
Rest In Heaven @55_AlwaysLive we will miss you bro. Damn man!!!— ANTONIO CROMARTIE (@CRO31) April 27, 2021