Geno Hayes, who played three seasons at Florida State and seven in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars, is under hospice care for liver complications.
“Geno’s in need of prayers. He’s fighting for his life,” said Haye’s former high school coach Frankie Carroll, who visited Hayes at his mother’s home in Valdosta, Georgia last Sunday. “It’s tough. Geno’s a fun-loving guy.”
Hayes — known for his instincts, athleticism and quickness — always seemed to find the football.
“And he’d get people on the ground when he got there,” former Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrew said. “He had a motor, a knack for locating the ball.”
Hayes signed with Florida State in 2005 out of Madison County, Florida, where he started as an undersized defensive lineman before he moved to linebacker and became an All-American.
Hayes finished his junior season at Florida State second on the team in total tackles with 94 and was first in tackles for loss with 17.5.
Bypassing his seniors season and declaring for the NFL draft, Hayes was a sixth-round selection of the Bucs in 2008. He moved into the starter’s role at weakside linebacker in his second season with the Bucs, finishing with a career-best 98 tackles.
Hayes played in 101 career NFL games with 70 starts spread between the Bucs (2008-11), Bears (2012) and Jags (2013-14). He had 401 career tackles and 10 sacks.
Billy Ray Reddick, a former teammate at Madison County High School and one of Hayes’ closest friends, has remained in contact with Hayes and other high school teammates through a group text chat.
Hayes’ health, however, has deteriorated in recent weeks.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” said Reddick, who lives in Houston.