Tyler Hilinski, student and presumptive starting quarterback for the Washington State University Cougars next year, was found dead in his apartment on Jan. 16, apparently by his own hand. He was 21 years old.
Pullman, Washington, police were asked to do a welfare check at Hilinski’s apartment around 4:30 p.m. after the young man failed to show up for football practice.
Officers found Hilinski’s body, with an “apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head,” the Seattle Times reported. A rifle and a suicide note were found next to the body. The contents of the note have not been released.
“We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Tyler’s passing,” WSU coach Mike Leach said in a statement quoted by the Seattle Times. “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.”
“The tragic news today surrounding Tyler Hilinski is devastating to all,” interim athletic director John Johnson said in a statement quoted on ESPN. “Tyler was a tremendous individual, great friend, and teammate and he will be deeply missed. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.”
Hilinski left behind a younger brother, Ryan Hilinski, also a quarterback who had just finished a record-setting season at Orange Lutheran High School.
Ryan issued a statement on Tuesday night.
“We, as a family, are grieving after receiving news that my brother, Tyler Hilinski took his own life this afternoon,” the statement read. “We are in complete shock and disarray. 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.”
“Please keep my family in your prayers tonight,” Ryan tweeted.
Please keep my family in your prayers tonight.
— Big Bo (@ryan_hilinski) January 17, 2018
Tyler Hilinski’s teammates also turned 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?? pic.twitter.com/LmNC1ZLNZi
— Skyler Thomas (@Sky_Dolla_Sign) January 17, 2018
Coolest guy I ever knew man it hurt me to my hart to know that your gone bro. Rest easy bro pic.twitter.com/A2hEMjog1T
— Tavares Martin Jr (@ASAP_561) January 17, 2018
Tyler was such a great young man and teammate. It's shocking and heartbreaking to know he was dealing with so much in his head when he always had a smile and a joke ready for anyone walking into the room. Rest easy, brother. #RIP3
— Carlos Freeman (@CarlosFreeman78) January 17, 2018
— Robert Taylor (@Runitback_Rob) January 17, 2018
Former Washington State linebackers coach Roy Manning, who just took a job UCLA, also sent out a tweet.
Words can’t describe what I’m feeling right now. My heart is beyond saddened. Please pray for the family and all of us affected!
— Roy Manning (@CoachRoyM) January 17, 2018
Hilinski played backup quarterback in seven games in his sophomore year at WSU, and started once. He threw for 1,176 yards seven touchdowns.
In the second game of the season, he came in off the bench in the fourth quarter with the Cougars 21 points down and led the team to a 47–44 victory in triple overtime.
He seemed the logical choice to replace Cougar’s quarterback Luke Falk, who will graduate this year.