Jan. 31, 2012
Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Former Iowa defensive back Tyler Sash had his first job interview in Indianapolis just over a year ago, participating in the NFL Combine for NFL draft candidates. Now the Oskaloosa, Iowa, native returns to Indy to take part in the biggest football game of his life, participating in Super Bowl XLVI for the NFC champion New York Giants.
It has been a whirlwind year for Sash indeed. After electing to enter the 2011 NFL Draft and not return to Iowa for his senior season, Sash participated in the NFL Combine last spring. Like all other players hoping to get drafted, he was poked, prodded, interviewed and tested, both physically and mentally, in just about every way possible.
Later he performed for NFL scouts at pro day on the UI campus. He was selected in the sixth round by the Giants, but had to sit through the summer work stoppage that wasn’t resolved until shortly before the season was scheduled to begin.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Sash, who was set to travel to Indianapolis on Monday with his Giant teammates. “The entire season has gone fast. It’s a very exciting time, for my team, my family, myself; it’s something every kid dreams about, getting a chance to actually play in the Super Bowl, it’s an amazing opportunity. I smile every day, just knowing I’m in the NFL. For somebody to pay me to play football and compete, it’s an amazing feeling — the Super Bowl; the biggest game ever.”
Sash is one of three former Hawkeye players who are connected to Sunday’s Super Bowl, while another former Iowa assistant coach will be coaching in the NFL’s championship game.
Former Hawkeyes Brian Ferentz and Jeff Tarpinian are members of the New England Patriots’ organization. Ferentz (2003-05) was a starting center for the Hawkeyes, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors and the Hayden Fry “Extra Heartbeat” award as a senior. He is in his fourth season with the Patriots organization and his first season as tight ends coach.
Tarpinian was a senior linebacker on Iowa’s 2010 squad and a four-year letterman. He signed a free agent contract with New England following the lockout and earned a roster spot. He recorded seven tackles during the regular season, but is currently on injured reserve and will not be active for the Super Bowl.
Along with Sash on the Giants roster, former Iowa assistant Pat Flaherty serves as the offensive line coach for New York. Flaherty was a member of the Iowa staff in 1999.
With Sash scheduled to take part on Sunday’s contest, this marks the ninth straight Super Bowl in which a former Iowa player has been a member of a participating team. Overall, Iowa has had 21 former players involved in 14 Super Bowl games since 1990.
Former Iowa offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga started at right tackle for the Packers in the 2011 Super Bowl, becoming a Super Bowl champion as a rookie in what could have been his final season with the Hawkeyes. Bulaga declared for the NFL following his junior season and is currently the youngest player ever to start in the Super Bowl.
Sash has been a key player for Giant special teams throughout the year. He has recorded 17 tackles and a forced fumble. In the NFL championship game, the New York punt coverage team, of which Sash is a member, was responsible for 10 points in the overtime win over San Francisco. During his career at Iowa, where he earned first team All-Big Ten honors as a senior and was one of 10 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, Sash also was a key contributor on special teams.
“We had a bunch of guys injured and could not get healthy at the start of the year,” said Sash, in describing the relative slow start by the Giants. “We were playing a lot of young guys at the start of the year. Starting with the Jets game, we treated that as a playoff game, and then the next game as well. We had to win both and we did. Since then we have been playing well, playing together in all phases. Scoring points on special teams is really important, it all works together. We hit our stride and got hot at the right time. After that, anything can happen.”
Sash will have family and friends at the Super Bowl this week, which, ironically, is back in the Midwest. Maybe after Sunday he will have a chance to learn more about his new surroundings in New York.
“Realizing I live here in New York, it is obviously a change for me from growing up in Oskaloosa,” said Sash. “But at the same time I enjoy it and the change in scenery. I actually live in Clifton, New Jersey, close to the Giant facilities.”
As with most first year players, Sash entered training camp with the goal of making the team. More than 30 former Hawkeyes competed in the NFL this season, but he is the only former Hawkeye who will be on the playing field for the last game of the NFL season.
“I keep up with other guys from Iowa,” said Sash. “Whenever I see an Iowa guy on film, I mention it, hey, that guy is from Iowa. There is a sense of pride. When there is an Iowa guy on the other team, you want to see them do well, but you want to win the game.
“I talk to guys I played with, it’s nice to keep up with them,” he said. “Everywhere I go there is somebody, a player, a coach, an assistant coach; everyone has a tie to Iowa. No matter what stadium we’re in or at every home game, there is always an Iowa tie. Everyone says how much they enjoyed coach Ferentz and the coaching staff at Iowa.”
Nearly a year ago, attending the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Sash and the other draft hopefuls worked out in an almost empty stadium. That won’t be the case Sunday evening, as Lucas Oil Stadium will be filled to capacity. Sash will no doubt see a lot of familiar faces this week as he prepares for the biggest game of his career.