In what to the world resounded as an inexplicable act, Tyler Hilinski, the Upland High School star quarterback who appeared to be on verge of gridiron greatness at Washington State, committed suicide on Tuesday.
Hilinski, who had performed spectacularly for the Cougars at the close of the 2017 season and was in line to be Washington State’s starting signal caller in 2018, was found dead in his apartment on Tuesday, according to the Pullman, Washington Police Department.
Hilinski died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Police said officers had been dispatched on Tuesday afternoon to Hilinski’s apartment north of the Washington State campus after some of his teammates had gone to his apartment after he was a no-show to a practice. A rifle and suicide note were found next to his 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,” according to a statement from the police department provided Tuesday.
In a media release Thursday, the Whitman County Coroner’s Office stated, “After completing the scene investigation, to include a detailed forensic examination with toxicology, into the death of Tyler Haun Halinski, age 21 of Irvine CA, a student at Washington State University, the coroner has determined that the decedent died on January 16, 2018 at his residence in Pullman. The cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The manner of death was suicide. The Whitman County Coroner’s Office extends its condolences to family and friends.”
Hilinksi, at 6-foot-4 inches, weighing 205 pounds and possessed of both a strong arm and poise, appeared to be a strong NFL prospect. He played at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High School before transferring to Upland High School his junior year.
His junior year he played in 13 games, had 177 completions against eight interceptions in 260 attempts for 3,053 yards and 34 touchdowns, a completion rate of .681, averaging 17.2 yards per catch and 234.8 yards per game. His longest completion went for 85 yards. He led Upland to the Inland Division semifinals, an offensive tour-de-force in which the Highlanders lost to Corona Centennial 86-56.
In the 2014 season as a high school senior, he played in 13 games, completed 165 passes for 2,738 yards, had a .682 completion rate, averaged 210.6 yards throwing per game and 12.7 completions per game, with 22 touchdowns across the entire season, or 1.7 touchdowns per game. His longest pass that year was for 63 yards and he threw five interceptions. The Highlanders reached the 2014 CIF semifinals under his command. He was named to the All-Inland Valley second team as quarterback.
In addition, as a junior with the Highlanders, he rushed for 297 yards in 105 carries, on one occasion scampering for a 23 yard gain, and as a senior ran for 166 yards in 94 carries, once galloping for a 44-yard pick-up.
He chose to attend Washington State and play under coach Mike Leach. He was the first player recruited and to be signed by the Cougars in 2015. As a freshman and most of his sophomore year at Washington State, Hilinski found himself riding the bench except for a few scattered downs, as Luke Falk, a standout from Logan, Utah, led the Cougars to 9-4, 8-5 and 9-4 seasons in 2015, 2016 and 2017. But 2017 marked a solid leap forward for Hilinski as he played in eight games. He made a notable appearance in early September against 22nd-ranked Boise State, coming in to replace Falk in the second half. He completed 25 of 33 passes for a total of 240 yards and three touchdowns, in an electrifying triple-overtime victory. In the final game of the season, in the Holiday Bowl, Falk was unavailable because of a wrist injury and Leach gave Hilinski the first start of his college career. He threw 50 passes, completing 39 of them for 272 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, as Michigan State defeated the Cougars 42-17.
There are multiple videos of Hilinski, from as early as his time in high school to more recently, being interviewed. In these he is questioned by scouts, sportscasters or others about, or is called upon to discuss issues relating to, the quarterback position. Other videos show him reviewing game situation videos of his own performance and that of his teammates. In them, Hilinski comes across as contemplative, articulate and articulate, and in command of all of the features of his teams’ playbooks.
“We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Tyler’s passing,” Leach said. “He was an incredible young man and everyone who had the privilege of knowing him was better for it. The entire Washington State University community mourns as our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Hilinski, a Claremont native, was finishing his redshirt sophomore year and was to be a redshirt junior in the coming fall. He was slated to replace Falk, who had established several Washington State passing records during his four year tenure, as the Cougars’ starter at quarterback.
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
-Richard Arlington Robinson