INDIANAPOLIS — Tyler Sash will play fullback, center and linebacker at Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Iowa knows Sash as a safety, of course. A two-time All-Big Ten safety, someone who had 13 career interceptions and many plays of major impact over the 37 Hawkeyes games he started.
With the NFC champion New York Giants, Sash is a rookie who will wear many special-teams hats in the Giants’ Super Bowl game against the New England Patriots.
“He’s the fullback on our punt team,” Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said. “He’s got to make all the calls there.
“He’s the center on our kickoff return team. He’s what we call the middle linebacker on punt returns. A lot of times he plays deep and blocks.”
Sash is also on the kickoff unit, looking to zip down field and stop the opponents’ return man.
“Everything’s a little bit different,” Sash said. “I’m a personal protector, or the fullback, on the punt team. I make all the calls, make sure everybody’s lined up right, making sure everybody’s blocking the guys that are lined up across from them.
“On kickoffs I’m put in a spot where I can make tackles. On punt returns, I’m kind of in a spot where I can use my skill sets running and hitting people. Sometimes they’ll put me in front of the punt-returner just to make sure he can secure the ball safely so he feels comfortable.
“On kickoff returns it’s kind of the same thing, and I’m trying to lay blocks to help my team.”
On Monday, Sash can come up for air. Not just from Sunday’s game, but from the last two years.
“Two years without a break,” he said.
Not everyone was sure Sash was doing the right thing when he made himself eligible for the 2011 NFL Draft after his junior season, though he turned 23 the month after the draft. He was the 198th player selected, going to the Giants late in the sixth round.
“Being from the state of Iowa,” Sash said, “you want to play for the state of Iowa. I probably would have been one of the captains on the team as a senior. I had the chance to stay, but at the same time, I always say ‘NFL’ means ‘Not For Long.’
“It was a long and hard thought, but my heart led me down the right path. Obviously, I’m here at the Super Bowl. God had a plan for me and it’s to be here in Indianapolis.
“I started the year off at Indy in the (NFL) Combine and now I’m finishing the year off at Indy in the Super Bowl. So it’s been a heck of a year.”
Sash played a lot of safety in the preseason, leading the Giants in tackles over those four games. Then he settled into his special teams role. He played in every game, making 17 tackles.
When staring safety Deon Grant left a part of New York’s 37-20 playoff win at Green Bay, the team didn’t suffer with Sash as his replacement.
“He’s come in and he’s brought a great deal of maturity and professionalism from the first time he walked into the building,” Quinn said. “Which is huge for a rookie.
“He’s kind of wise beyond his years. He’s just been a pleasure to coach. He’s just got a great feel for the game. He’s got good football instincts.
“I think he’s done very well. For him to come in and not miss any games, very consistent, very reliable. He’s really been a big addition for us.”
Said Giants linebackers coach Jim Herrmann: “I love Tyler Sash. He’s a typical Iowa football player, tough, aggressive, smart, a great person.
“He was a good pick for us. He’s kind of found his niche this year.”
In the coming off-season, Sash will devote some time to his foundation and his apparel line, called GBNB (Get Better, Not Bitter).
“GBNB is a non-profit thing that I’m running back home in Oskaloosa,” he said. “We’ve helped raise and raised $100,000 that we’ve turned around and given back to kids in need in the community, or cancer patients, or families affected by fires or floods, or anything like that. Anything I can do to help give back.
“Get better, not bitter, is something my dad said to me growing up. He would wake me up at 6 o’clock, 6:30, and say ‘Hey, it’s Get Better Day, not Get Bitter Day.’ You have two choices from the moment you wake up.
“He really had an impact on me for being the person I am today. I’m just trying to be a positive role model for other people.”
If all goes right for the Giants Sunday night, Sash will be riding in a parade in Manhattan on Tuesday.
“Giants fans are kind of like Iowa fans,” he said. “I’m always going to say Iowa fans are the best in the world, but New York fans are right there. It would be pretty crazy to be on a world-championship team riding down the streets of New York City with tens of thousands of fans cheering you on.”
The winner’s share for the Super Bowl is $88,000 per player.
“That would be good,” Sash said. “But I want the ring. You keep that forever.”For a good New York Post story on Sash thinking about his former Iowa teammate, Brett Greenwood, click here.