The coroner in Whitman County, Wash., announced Thursday that Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his off-campus apartment Tuesday. Police found Hilinski in his apartment after he had failed to show up for a team workout. They discovered a rifle next to his body and a suicide note.
He was 21 years old.
“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,” Washington State Coach Mike Leach said in a statement.
Condolences poured in from the Washington State and college football communities.
Two notable former Washington State quarterbacks, Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf, also chimed in on social media. “I’m so f—— angry, I can’t stop crying,” Leaf wrote.
Leaf, who has had well-chronicled legal and substance-abuse issues, referred last year to his own “botched suicide attempt,” in an essay for the Players’ Tribune. On Wednesday he said, “Every human life is precious. All I wish is that I could’ve been in that [apartment] in Pullman, looked that amazing young man in the eyes & said you’re loved Tyler! I’m just like you & I’ve been here & there is hope, hugged him & never let go.”
Calling Hilinski “a great friend and mentor to my son,” Bledsoe pleaded for those in emotional distress to view “reaching out for help” as “NOT a sign of weakness” but as “the ultimate sign of STRENGTH!!”
Hilinski, a third-year sophomore from Claremont, Calif., played in eight games and started the Cougars’ Holiday Bowl loss to Michigan State in 2017, completing 130 of 179 passes for 1,176 yards and seven touchdowns, with seven interceptions. Hilinski threw three touchdown passes, including the game-winner in the third overtime, after relieving an injured Luke Falk in Washington State’s 47-44 win over Boise State on Sept. 10. He was expected to assume the Cougars’ starting quarterback job in 2018.
“The tragic news today surrounding Tyler Hilinski is devastating to all. Tyler was a tremendous individual, great friend and teammate, and he will be deeply missed. Our hearts go out to his family and friends,” Washington State interim athletic director John Johnson said in a statement released Tuesday night. “Earlier tonight, the football team was brought together and informed of the tragedy. There, they were met by campus and department counseling and psychological services, including athletics’ on-staff clinical psychologist and a licensed mental health counselor, along with WSU Athletics medical team. The university will continue to coordinate and provide ongoing counseling care for all student-athletes as long as needed.”
Washington State was scheduled to introduce Pat Chun as its new athletic director on Wednesday. That news conference has been postponed, the school said.
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