By BURDELL HENSLEY
OSKALOOSA — Herald photo by Duane Nollen
Current University of Iowa safety and former Oskaloosa High School standout Tyler Sash, left, signs a memorabilia for a fan during the annual Sportsmen’s Banquet at Fellowship Bible Church Saturday night.
It was the annual Sportsmen’s Banquet at Fellowship Bible Church Saturday night and the honored sportsman was Oskaloosa’s Tyler Sash.
The banquet often focuses on hunting and fishing, but on this night, the focus was on football. Sash delighted a large crowd with his insights on growing up in Oskaloosa and the journey to Division I football at the University of Iowa.
He also pleased both young and old by spending plenty of time signing almost everything and posing for pictures.
For the speaking part of the program, Sash answered questions interview style and added to some of the questions. The questioning went from his youth to the present and he gave on how he has reached the level he is on at the present time.
Tyler is the youngest of the three children of Mike and Barney Sash, so he always played with older kids. That had to toughen him up as the older siblings were mighty fine athletes in their own right. Dad was a coach and it was natural for him to tag along to the gym and get in some floor time.
When Tyler as asked about the one that influenced him the most to become a Hawkeye the answer was Tim Dwight
“I loved to watch him play,” Sash said. “It was amazing to watch him return punts. He was so fast and played with so much fire. I knew from watching him that I wanted to be a Hawk.”
But in what sport? When Tyler was asked what his favorite sport was in high school, the answer a definite, basketball!
The recruiting process began and no offers came from Iowa basketball.
“I had some basketball offers at D-I schools, but not Iowa,” Sash said. “None of them felt right and I really wanted to be a Hawkeye. I waited and after the state track meet there was a break through. I was sleeping in the van on the way home and I had a dream about playing football at Iowa. When I checked my cell phone, there was a number that I was to call back.
“I made the call and it was a voice I didn’t quickly recognize. It was coach Ferentz and he wanted to know how I stood with the Hawkeyes. He asked if I would consider a scholarship to Iowa. It was like, YES! Where do I sign?”
The interesting story is about how Tyler Sash got on the radar screen of Kirk Ferentz. Tyler was in fifth grade and playing AAU basketball with an Oskaloosa team in a grade school tourney in Keota. They were playing an Iowa City team that had Matt Gatens, James Ferentz and several other Iowa City players that are now playing big time basketball. Tyler’s team beat the Iowa City team and Tyler scored 36 of his team’s 40 points. Kirk Ferentz was at the game and made a note to follow this kid from Oskaloosa. The rest is history.
But it wasn’t exactly a “Yellow Brick Road” to the position of starting strong safety for the Hawkeyes. The first obstacle Sash had to deal with was the red shirt year and that took a lot of patience.
“It was hard,” Sash related. “In high school I was used to competition at least twice a week and instead there was a lot of standing, learning and wondering. At the time I hated it, but as I look back it was the best for me. I was in a top notch strength and conditioning program and we had a training table designed to add bulk without losing speed.”
The next step was to make the two deep roster in his first year of competition. After pre-season drills were over, he was told that he would be given the opportunity to start. The opportunity was seized and the strong safety position has been his since that time.
Obstacles quickly challenged Sash. In the third game of the season at Pittsburgh he went down with a shoulder injury. He missed one game and then returned to play with the injury. After the bowl game with South Carolina, in which he had a pair of interceptions, he went under the knife to repair the shoulder. That meant no spring drills.
By fall camp, the shoulder was 100 percent and Sash was rearing to go. The season started with an agonizing win over UNI and then the big game with Iowa State in which Tyler had three interceptions. The Hawks got on a roll, but once again the injury bug bit. Tyler’s other shoulder went bad, but he was able to play through the pain and finish the season. After the bowl win over Georgia Tech’s high power triple option offense, it was another date with the surgeon.
Sash has just completed a triple-double with the Hawkeyes. He has had two varsity seasons, two bowl wins and two shoulder surgeries. He is in rehab at the present time and things are going well. It will be no spring football again, but he is confident that he will be ready for the fall season.
The life of a football player on the D-I level is not all a glory road. There are lots of distractions and the challenge of balancing the classroom with football can be tough.
“Some days I start classes at 6:30 a.m. and I am not finished until into the evening,” Sash said. “Football takes a lot of time and you have classes to attend and then try and find time to study. There are plenty of outside distractions as well. People want to talk with you and take a piece of your time. There are times when days are very challenging.”
Adding faith to the mix makes the balance even more challenging.
“God has blessed me with the talent I have,” Sash added. “I have found ways to exercise my faith through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on campus and on Thursdays, a number of us on the team meet for a Bible Study.”
Those dreams of a youngster watching Tim Dwight have come full circle and the future looks bright for Sash and his mates. Not many Iowa football players have had the opportunity of playing in a bowl game all four years of their career much less be able to be on a winning bowl team for four years. Those are future dreams and very reachable dreams. What about dreams of the next level?
“That has to be the goal of anyone that plays on this level,” Sash stated. “I would love to have the opportunity and I wouldn’t be choosy. I would play for anyone that would offer the chance.”
It was clear that Sash enjoyed his time with the people and especially with the kids.
“That s great to have them around,” Sash said. “It brings back memories of my childhood. I loved to be around the Penn players as we lived very close to Penn. I relished any opportunity to be around big name athletes.”
You never know, but a future D-I recruit out of Oskaloosa might have been in the crowd Saturday night. That young person is dreaming as well and Tyler is living proof that those dreams can come true.