MOBILE, Ala. – The world moves on but sometimes it’s so hard.
For Washington State quarterback Luke Falk, dealing with the death of a friend is the hardest thing he’s done in his 23 years. Falk’s teammate, backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski, died Jan. 16 of an apparent suicide according to the Pullman, Washington, Police Department.
The death shocked many who knew Hilinski and pushed Falk to leave a workout session he was having in Los Angeles to attend a candlelight vigil last week.
And now Falk is trying to prepare for the next stage of his career: being an NFL quarterback. Falk is practicing for Saturday’s Senior Bowl, where he will wear Hilinski’s No. 3.
“Words don’t describe the hurt,” Falk said. “I think we all felt as a team, and seeing his family, and I think having that candlelight vigil really helped us come together, had some closure. I think it’s always going to be with us. We really want Tyler to be remembered.”
But wearing the jersey is just part of it for Falk. He wants people to be educated on suicide, particularly when it comes to men.
According to the latest numbers from the American Association of Suicidology, of the 44,193 suicides in 2015, 33,994 were men. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports, based on 2016 numbers, that men die by suicide 3.57 times more often than women.
“When suicide is the second-leading cause of death from men, 18-to-45 years old, it should be talked about,” Falk said. “I feel like at the time, we can express our emotions because we’re in a man’s sport and being a quarterback, people look up to you as a leader. So you felt like he probably could talk to anybody. We got to change some of that stuff. We got to have resources and not having any stigma about it.”
Police went to Hilinski’s apartment last week after he failed to report to a workout the previous day. Police said they found Hilinski dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, where a rifle was recovered next to a suicide note.
Hilinski was Falk’s backup for two seasons and had replaced him in a few games. The two had a close relationship and now Hilinski is gone, but not forgotten.
“I think all of us that was close to him kinda go back and ask ourselves were there signs?” Falk said. “What could we have done? We all kinda feel a little bit of guilt. I wish I could have given him one more hug, I wish I could have given him a pat on the butt one more time and let him know he’s loved.”