Pullman police found Washington State University quarterback Tyler Hilinski dead in his apartment around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to a police department news release.
Police said after Hilinski did not attend Tuesday’s practice, officers went to his residence at Aspen Village Apartments for a checkup.
Inside, officers said they found Hilinski dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Police officers found a suicide note and a rifle next to Hilinski’s body.
At 9:15 p.m., WSU Interim Director of Athletics John Johnson and football head coach Mike Leach issued statements in a university news release.
“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,” Leach said in the release.
In the release, Johnson said the team was gathered and informed of the news, and counseling and mental health services have been provided to the players.
“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,” Johnson said in the release. “The university will continue to coordinate and provide ongoing counseling care for all student-athletes as along as needed.”
Memorials dedicated to Hilinski cropped up across the WSU campus Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, with flowers, balloons and posters emblazoned with condolences placed underneath the university’s bronze cougar statue.
“He cared about people and people cared about him, and I think that’s what’s special,” said WSU Student Body President Jordan Frost.
Frost said the student body was planning a larger memorial, but a specific date and time had not been determined.
Across social media, those who knew the Hilinski family, as well as Cougar athletes past and present offered their thoughts and prayers.
“Please keep my family in your prayers tonight,” Hilinski’s younger brother Ryan said on Twitter.
Former NFL quarterback and WSU alumnus Ryan Leaf also took to Twitter, expressing his grief of Hilinski’s passing.
The 21-year-old quarterback was listed as a redshirt sophomore for the Washington State football team. Hilinski took over the Cougar offense intermittently in place of senior quarterback Luke Falk during the 2017 season and was expected to start next year.
Out of his seven games played in the crimson and grey, Hilinski’s triple-overtime victory over eventual Mountain West champion Boise State stands out as a career highlight. Hilinski also started in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28 against Michigan State, throwing for 272 yards and two touchdowns.
Brandon Hill can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @brandonmtnhill