Former NFL Linebacker Geno Hayes Placed in Hospice Care at 33: He's 'Fighting for His Life'
Former NFL linebacker Geno Hayes is under hospice care in South Georgia after experiencing complications from liver disease.
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the 33-year-old is spending his final days at his mother's home in Valdosta.
"Geno's in need of prayers. He's fighting for his life," Haye's former high school coach, Frankie Carroll, told the Tallahassee Democrat. "It's tough."
Hayes was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft and then signed with the Chicago Bears in 2012. He last played for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014.
Hayes — a father of two children, ages 13 and 8 —told ESPN reporter Jenna Laine that he'd been battling liver disease for two years and was waiting for a transplant.
"The first diagnosis they gave me was alcoholic cirrhosis. But when we dug in deeper, it became just chronic liver disease, because I don't drink like that," Hayes said. "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.'"
Hayes said he was initially diagnosed with the illness when he rapidly went from weighing 220 pounds to just 150. He told ESPN that he believes his use of over-the-counter pain medications during his time in the NFL, as well as his family's history of liver disease, ultimately led to his condition.
"At first I didn't let my kids come around when I was in the hospital," Hayes told the outlet. "Over time we eased into them knowing about me and now they know how to handle things..."
"I went into a depression for literally three months. ... supreme depression," he continued. "I wanted more to know but didn't want to be a burden. ... Being in my position, I was always so private that I closed myself off to people."
Hayes was previously an active Twitter user and his most recent tweet from March 14 humorously poked fun at his mother for her love of watching the Lifetime channel.
"Geno's a fun-loving guy," Carroll told the Democrat of Smith.
Before his time in the NFL, Smith played with Florida State, where he was named an All-American.
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"And he'd get people on the ground when he got there," former Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrew told the Democrat. "He had a motor, a knack for locating the ball."
Hayes told ESPN that he just wants to help people while he's in hospice care.
"I'm enjoying life, I'm spending more time with my kids and I really want to help people," he said.
"My main goal is to just inspire, to inspire the next person, no matter what they're going through, no matter what who talks bad about them -- family, friends, social media, all of that crap -- it don't matter," Hayes added. "You take care of you. Make sure you're straight. That's all I want to do."