Of the 3 Hilinski boys, Tyler was the largest at birth weighing in at 10 pounds 10 ounces and 24 inches. From the moment he could hold a ball he always seemed to have one in his hand. He slept with his baseball glove because he loved the way it smelled and shot basket after basket in the hoop on the family driveway. Tyler and his older brother Kelly were inseparable. They were teammates, brothers and best friends. So, of course everywhere Kelly and Mark went, Tyler went too. Dad was the coach and Kelly, being the oldest, usually got first choice on which position to play. Not to be left out, Tyler would play any spot on any of their teams just to be near Kelly and his Dad. On their football team, Tyler played linebacker, defensive end, receiver and when Pop Warner age and weight guidelines separated the two onto different teams Tyler started playing QB for his own team. As the brothers, including the youngest brother Ryan, continued to play and love all sports they found themselves making more and more time for football.
Tyler attended Our Lady of the Assumption School and Parish in Claremont. A scholarship has been established at OLA in Tyler’s name for the next 33 years. 3 was Tyler’s jersey number at Washington State University and has come to play an integral part in Hilinski’s Hope.
After playing flag football for OLA and tackle football with Upland Pop Warner, Tyler followed Kelly to Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, CA. While a Freshman, Tyler, at quarterback, and his football team went undefeated. As a sophomore, Tyler was Kelly’s back up at quarterback on the varsity football team and travelled to Dublin, Ireland as one of 12 American football teams selected to play in the Global Ireland Football Tournament. Shortly thereafter, the Hilinski family moved back to their home in Claremont to be near and help care for a very sick relative.
Tyler enrolled at Upland High School and won the starting job as their quarterback. Tyler’s junior and senior seasons were record setting and as fun as it could ever be; it was pure joy to see him excel at his craft. Many awards followed. A 2-time All CIF selection at quarterback, All Baseline league offensive MVP and for the county, all state Quarterback as selected by Cal Hi Sports among them. Working closely with his coaches and mentors, Tyler began his habit of watching and breaking down film. This would continue to be a strength he would develop highly at the next level. What is more fun to remember is Tyler as our “Superman”. He simply refused to quit trying to charge, lead and win for his team, even to the point of scrambling for what seemed like hours letting his line and receivers adjust while Tyler found the best option down the field. Tyler wasn’t perfect but he tried to be at every practice, every game and every play. During his senior year in high school Fox Sports chose Tyler as one of the top QB’s in CA and ran a really nice piece about the top ten QB’s in California; Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen were featured among the others.
Coach Ken Wilson at WSU recruited Tyler during his Junior year. Ty spent many hours on the phone talking to WSU Head Coach Mike Leach. They really hit it off and soon after Tyler committed to WSU over Cal and others. He was on his way…
Many describe Tyler as the happiest person in any room and on any field. He always had a smile on his face and kind words for his friends and teammates. Tyler threw his first touchdown at WSU as a red-shirt sophomore in the Arizona game, a 71-yard bomb to River Cracraft. But, perhaps Tyler will best be remembered for his play in the Boise State game. Ty was put into the game in the 4th quarter with less than 10 minutes to play and WSU was down 31-10. 3 overtimes later, Tyler threw the game winning touchdown to Jamal Morrow. WSU fans rushed the field and the WSU players hoisted Tyler on their shoulders. From that moment on, Ty became known as the “Comeback Kid.”
Just a few months later Tyler died by suicide on January 16, 2018. Tyler never showed any signs of depression or struggle. On the day he passed he went to football practice at 7 am but failed to show up for the teams afternoon weight lifting session.
Tyler was a good and kind son, brother, friend and teammate. For years, he wore a wristbrand that said ‘Gehrig’s Grit, Never Quit” (his maternal grandmother passed away from ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease when Ty was 10). He gave the ALS wristband out to many friends and teammates. Ty was also wearing his Superman bracelet his Mom Kym had just given him 3 weeks before on Christmas. Although Tyler always believed in happy endings and that good was around every corner, Tyler simply couldn’t endure the pain he must have been suffering. He passed away wearing that Gerhig’s Grit band you see in every picture…
We are so lucky to have shared 21 “AWESOME” years with Tyler…a “flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long” (Lao Tzu)
Please remember Tyler with love and please do 3 good things everyday.