They called themselves "The Crew'' -- four Giants rookies with a common bond on and off the field, living in an apartment in Clifton, New Jersey, and playing on a team that would win the Super Bowl that season.
Fullback Henry Hynoski, who came up with the nickname, linebacker Mark Herzlich, linebacker Spencer Paysinger and safety Tyler Sash spent almost every minute of every day together, growing as close as brothers.
"We all went through the same stuff our rookie year,'' said Herzlich, the only member of "The Crew'' still with the Giants. "We weren't just buddies on the field. We lived together. We went out together.''
Herzlich's eyes reddened as he stood in front of his locker Wednesday, mourning the loss of a football brother. Sash was found dead Tuesday in an apartment in his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa. He was 27.
Results of an autopsy are pending, but police said no foul play is suspected.
"I was trying not to believe it at first,'' he said. "I saw him in March, when I was doing some speaking engagement in Des Moines. He stopped by with his girlfriend. He seemed happy and healthy. I never would have imagined at that point that anything would happen.''
Sash, a star safety at Iowa, came to the Giants as a sixth-round draft pick in 2011. Herzlich, Paysinger and Hynoski were undrafted free agents. Sash was a solid special-teamer as a rookie and made the team in 2012. He was released in 2013 and did not play in the NFL again.
"He was doing OK as far as I knew,'' said Herzlich, who remained in regular contact with Sash. "He went back home to Iowa and was in Oskaloosa, where he grew up. He had a house there, a dog, family and friends, and he was doing some announcing for Hawkeyes football.''
His voice softened and trailed off. Herzlich didn't know what happened or the cause of death.
"I wonder why?'' said Herzlich, who overcame cancer while at Boston College. "I wonder if there's anything else I could have done.''
Only a handful of Giants on this year's roster knew Sash, but many of the coaches remain. Safeties coach Dave Merritt is one of them, and he had a moment of silence for him when the defensive backs met Wednesday.
Cornerback Prince Amukamara also was a rookie in 2011.
"I was texting [Sash] about a week ago, we were talking about getting verified on Instagram,'' he said. " . . . It just seemed so sudden. It gives you a sense that death is real and we're not invincible.''
Tom Coughlin referenced Sash's death while speaking to reporters before practice Wednesday morning.
"It's very sad, most difficult to try and understand,'' Coughlin said. "Our condolences go out to his family and friends and all those that cared for him. He was an outstanding teammate. During the time he was here, the players really enjoyed Tyler Sash. So I'm dumbfounded by this, and I'm very sad.''
Long snapper Zak DeOssie said he kept in touch with Sash.
"As player rep, all former players go through me to do some housecleaning stuff, and I've helped him along with worker's comp information and some friendly texts here and there,'' said DeOssie, whose eyes moistened as he spoke of Sash. "It's a very sad day. Very sad.''
Herzlich has plenty of good memories of his friend to help him through the grieving process. Such as the time Sash made a special-teams tackle during that magical 2011 season.
"He ran down on a punt and made a great tackle,'' Herzlich said. "He turned around, took out his mouth guard and turned to all of us with this big grin with his front tooth knocked out. He loved that. He was kind of a crazy man out there, and he played like it. He was reckless. It was fun for all of us to play with him.''
RIP, Tyler Sash. So sad to see a life snuffed out way too soon.