Tyler Hilinski, the Washington State quarterback who was expected to start for WSU in 2018, has tragically died of an apparent suicide in his apartment. He was only 21-years-old. His parents have now revealed that he had CTE.
Hilinski’s sudden death shocked teammates, coaches, and fans, who remembered him for his positive outlook on life and his athletic talent. On Facebook, he provided no public glimmers of problems, filling his page with photos of the football field. It’s not clear why Hilinski apparently took his own life.
Police Chief Gary Jenkins said authorities are still seeking a motive, adding, “The missing piece here is why. Most of our investigation will be conducting interviews.” However, his parents have provided more details to The Today Show.
His parents, Mark and Kym, spoke out to the show in June 2018 about mental health and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). “It was a shock to get those results and find out that he had it [CTE], and to realize that the sport that he loved may have contributed to that diagnosis,” Kym Hilinski, Tyler’s mother, told NBC’s Hoda Kotb.
Kotb asked the Hilinskis if they thought it was unusual that the MAYO clinic wanted to do an autopsy on a teenage football player boy. Tyler’s father Mark said, “It wasn’t surprising to us at the time. We were in complete shock. We wanted to know everything we could and find out anything we could, of course, we immediately said sure. We’d like to know what we can find out.”
He added, “The medical examiner said he had the brain of a 65-year-old, which is really hard to take,” Mark told Hoda Kotb. “He was the sweetest, most outgoing, giving kid. That was difficult to hear.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Found Hilinski’s Body After He Didn’t Show Up For Practice & His Family Says They Are in ‘Complete Shock’ &
Saying they are in shock and complete disarray, Hilinski’s family released a statement that also said: “Tyler was the kid that put a smile on everybody’s face when they were down, especially his family. We will mourn the loss of Tyler for some time but celebrate the way he lived his life every day.”
In a statement, Pullman police reported that they responded to the Aspen Village Apartments at about 4:30 p.m. on January 16, 2018 to “check on the welfare of a Washington State University (WSU) football player who did not show up for practice earlier in the day. Officers arrived and found Tyler Hilinski, 21 years old, deceased in the apartment with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.”
The release continued, “A rifle was recovered next to Hilinski and a suicide note was found. Hilinski is listed as a redshirt sophomore quarterback on the WSU football team. Pullman Police detectives and the Whitman County Coroner’s Office are conducting a thorough investigation to confirm the suspected cause and manner of death.”
Authorities and the family have not revealed the contents of the suicide note.
2. Hilinski’s Brother Asked the Public to Keep His Family In Its Prayers & the Coach Remembered Tyler as an ‘Incredible Young Man’
Ryan Hilinski, Tyler’s brother, posted a heartbreaking message on Twitter. “Please keep my family in your prayers tonight,” it simply read. Ryan is “a high school quarterback in California with a Washington State offer,” according to The Spokesman-Review.
The university’s president also offered a message on Twitter, writing, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hilinski family.”
Mike Leach, the university’s head football coach, released a statement, saying, “We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Tyler’s passing. He was an incredible young man and everyone who had the privilege of knowing him was better for it. The entire WSU community mourns as thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
3. Tyler Hilinski Was the Team’s Backup Quarterback in 2017 & Was Known For His Positive Personality
Tyler Hilinski had a bright future ahead of him. In 2017, he was WSU’s backup quarterback. “Hilinski was WSU’s backup quarterback in 2017 and a vibrant, well-liked member of the team and community who was known for his infectious positivity and sense of humor,” reported The Spokesman-Review.
That positive persona made his apparent suicide all the more difficult for people to comprehend. The newspaper reported that it was expected that he would be the starting QB for the team in 2018.
“Most expected Hilinski would start for the Cougars in 2018. He received the first start of his career in the Holiday Bowl because of an injury to Luke Falk and was 39-of-50 passing with 272 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a loss to Michigan State,” The Spokesman-Review reported.
4. Hilinski’s Teammates & Others Expressed Shock & Sadness on Social Media
Those who knew Hilinski or just those who followed the team took to social media to express their grief. “Ty you were a great teammate, friend, brother anything we needed you to be. You brought smiles to the people around you. I am sorry I could not be there for you when you needed a smile for yourself. Love you man. Rest In Peace🙏🏽” wrote teammate Skyler Thomas.
Thomas also tweeted “Life is precious. Don’t take it for granted” and “If you are ever going through something and you feel like suicide is the only way to deal with it you can always contact me no matter who you are. You can also contact The National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255.”
Another player, Jamire Calvin, also tweeted his heartbreak.
“#RIP3 😪 this one hurt man. Love you Ty dawg, wish you was still here with us. Prayers to the Hilinsky family,” he wrote.
5. Hilinski Played for Upland High School & Was From Claremont, California
Hilinski’s biography on the WSU website says that he was from Claremont, California and stood 6 foot 3 inches tall, weighing 213 pounds. He was a record-breaking high school player in Upland, California, the bio says.
“Played two varsity seasons for head coach Tim Salter at Upland HS in Upland, Calif.…set or broke 9 passing related records for Upland High School including passing percentage (68%), TD’s In a game (7), pass completions (182), single game yardage (446)…SENIOR season completed 165 of 242 passes (.682) for 2,738 yards, 22 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 13 games…also rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns…led team to 10-3 mark and semifinal berth in CIF South Section playoff…” the biography says.
“…named to Cal-Hi Sports All-California Fourth Team, All-CIF Southern Section West Valley Division First Team, All- Baseline League First Team, All-Inland Valley Second Team by Daily Bulletin, All-Inland Area Honorable Mention and San Bernardino County Sun All-Area Honorable Mention…as a JUNIOR completed 177 of 260 (.681) passes for 3,053 yards, 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions…added 297 yards rushing and four scores in 13 games…led team to 9-4 mark and a share of the Baseline League title…2013 Offensive Player of the Year by the Daily Bulletin, All- Baseline League First Team and All-Inland Valley First Team by Daily Bulletin…rated four stars by Rivals.com, three stars by Scout.com and ESPN.com…Rivals.com lists him as the 10th-ranked pro style QB in nation, 44th-ranked overall prospect in California…Scout.com has him as the 13th-ranked QB in West, 9th in California.”
He appeared in eight games in 2017 as a sophomore for WSU, the website says: “RS-SOPHOMORE (2017): Appeared in eight games, starting the Holiday Bowl…went 130-for-179 for 1,176 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions…went 7-of-9 for 50 yards in season-opener against Montana State…led comeback victory over Boise State by going 25-of-33 for 240 yards with one interceptions and three touchdowns including the game-winner in triple overtime…went 5-of-9 for 35 yards against Oregon State and 2-of-3 for 27 yards and an INT against Nevada…went 4-for-5 for 28 yards at California and 3-for-9 for 15 yards against Colorado…at Arizona, rushed for two touchdowns, went 45-of-61 for 509 yards, two touchdown passes and four interceptions…made first career start, went 39-of-50 for 272 yards with two touchdowns (14, 15) and one interception against No. 18 Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl.”