PULLMAN – Tyler Hilinski, a redshirt sophomore quarterback on the Washington State University football team, was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in his apartment Tuesday night, according to Pullman police.
A press release said a suicide note was found next to the body.
“Pullman Police detectives and the Whitman County Coroner’s Office are conducting a thorough investigation to confirm the suspected cause and manner of death,” police stated in the release.
On Tuesday afternoon, Pullman Police were sent to Hilinski’s Aspen Village apartment when the WSU player did not show up to a team practice earlier in the day.
University president Kirk Schulz posted the following message on Twitter: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hilinski family.”
Hilinski’s younger brother Ryan, a high school quarterback in California with a Washington State offer, asked via Twitter to “Please keep my family in your prayers tonight.”
The Cougars football team was brought together Tuesday night and informed of the tragedy, a press release said. Players were met by campus and athletic department counselors, an athletics on-staff clinical psychologist and a licensed mental health counselor, according to the release.
WSU coach Mike Leach, who recruited Hilinski to Pullman from California’s Upland High School, said the following: “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.”
Added interim athletic director John Johnson: “Tyler was a tremendous individual, great friend and teammate, and he will be deeply missed. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.”
Due to the events, WSU will reschedule today’s press conference to announce new athletic director Pat Chun.
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.
“I think he does a great job of providing energy,” Leach said in August, prior to WSU’s season opener.
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 hallmark moment of Hilinski’s season came in Week 2 in a home game against Boise State, when the backup was called into action midway through the third quarter. Hilinski delivered one of the most improbable comebacks of the 2017 college football season when he helped the Cougars climb out of a 31-10 deficit to beat Boise State 47-44 in triple overtime at Martin Stadium.
Hilinski, who was 25-of-33 for 240 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception in the game, was mobbed by WSU fans who rushed the field and lifted the redshirt sophomore into the air and carried him off the field.
Known by teammates as “Clink” or “good ol’ Clinsky,” according to running back Jamal Morrow, Hilinski demonstrated humility after the win and credited teammates.
“Shoot, I was just playing football out there,” he said. “Surrounded by a great group of guys, just told me they had faith in me. I was ready to do my job.”
The quarterback’s younger brother and father were watching from their Irvine, California, home – and plenty entertained – as Hilinski completed the comeback.
“We were literally losing our minds,” Ryan Hilinski told The Spokesman-Review the next week.
Older brother Kelly Hilinski was working a night shift at a hospital in Ogden, Utah, and constantly racing back and forth to a computer to watch the comeback unfold.
“Every time a patient came in and Tyler was in, I had to run away from the computer, to my dismay, and help the patient,” Kelly said. “All I wanted to do is watch the game.”
Tyler Hilinski’s mother, Kym, was in attendance at Martin Stadium that night and recounted a special moment while later walking back to her Pullman hotel.
“We put our arms around each other, he’s my son, he’s still my baby,” Kym said in the days after the game. “We’re just talking and a couple times he said, ‘Mom, did that just happen?’ And I said, ‘I know Ty, you just have to enjoy this moment because not many people get a win in three overtimes.’ ”
In the school press release Tuesday night, WSU provided information for students needing immediate assistance. They’re able to contact the 24/7 WSU Crisis Line at (509) 335-2159. Staff and faculty can receive assistance at the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) State toll-free number at 1 (877) 313-4455.