PULLMAN – They opened the day with a memorial walk through one of his favorite outdoor sanctuaries, and finished it atop a metal podium inside of the other.
Tyler Hilinski’s parents, Mark and Kym, and brothers Kelly and Ryan took part in an emotionally stirring moment before Washington State’s home opener, raising a crimson flag in the east end zone amid a chorus of cheers just minutes before the Cougars kicked off against San Jose State at Martin Stadium.
Earlier Saturday morning, the Hilinski family led a hike through Kamiak Butte County Park, a nearby recreation area Tyler often visited during his leisure time while he was a quarterback and student at Washington State.
From freshly painted blue and purple suicide awareness ribbons on the field at Martin Stadium, to the Hilinski’s Hope foundation flag planted behind the west end zone, to T-shirts bearing his No. 3 and rally towels scattered throughout the crowd, there were plenty of symbols reminding people of Hilinski on a day that was clearly dedicated to the QB who took his life in January.
As the Hilinski family acknowledged the applause from 30,000-plus fans in attendance, public address announcer Glenn Johnson read off a statement as the Cougar flag was lifted into the air:
“Washington State University would like to use this opportunity to bring awareness to mental health issues and remind all that if you need help, please ask.”
Members of WSU’s fraternities and sororities wore T-shirts printed with the slogan “Greek for Tyler” and on the east end zone video board, the school aired a pregame public service announcement addressing suicide prevention and mental health awareness.
WSU football players Nick Begg, Peyton Pelluer, Andre Dillard, Hunter Dale and Trey Tinsley, along with other Cougar student-athletes, took turns delivering the following message in the video:
“Pressure. Expectations. Overwhelmed. Mental health issues are real. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people age 15-24. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. If you’re going through a difficult time, hope and help is only a phone call away. On the playing field, it is important to lean on your teammates for help. It is important to lean on each other off the field, too. Life isn’t always easy, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. You don’t’ have to face it alone. We are all on the same team when it comes to looking out for each other. There is hope. You matter. We care. Help is just a phone call away.”
An ESPN College GameDay segment featuring senior writer Ivan Maisel, who lost his son Max to suicide three years, and the Hilinski family aired on the weekly television program Saturday morning, and No. 3 flags flew through a large crowd stationed behind the GameDay set in College Station, Texas.