Hundreds pay respects to WSU's Tyler Hilinski at memorial service

LA VERNE, Calif. -- The Washington State football team and staff members joined Tyler Hilinski's family and friends in paying their final respects to the Cougars quarterback on Saturday.

Approximately 800 people gathered in the gymnasium at Damien High School as Hilinski was remembered for his kindness, infectious laugh and knack for making others happy.

Hilinski, 21, took his own life Jan. 16, leaving his loved ones with more questions than answers. There wasn't a sense that a clear reason will ever emerge. But the consensus those close to him have reached is that they all knew the same person: a loyal, generous, caring individual who prioritized the happiness of those around him.

"Let it be known that it was an honor to be his younger brother," Ryan Hilinski, Tyler's brother, told those in attendance Saturday.

Hilinski's aunt, Christine Hilinski, and his older brother, Kelly, also spoke and described a happy-go-lucky college student who loved playing sports, especially football.

The service made clear just how large a role football played in Hilinski's life. Several pictures of Hilinski in uniform from childhood to just a few weeks ago were on display, and a highlight package to the tune of Andy Grammer's "Back Home," a de facto Washington State anthem, was shown on a pair of large projection screens.

That Hilinski was widely expected to be the Cougars' starting quarterback in the fall went unspoken, but it was in the back of everyone's mind because it reinforces and further complicates the question everyone is asking: Why?

"Tyler was hurting in ways we can't imagine," Christine Hilinski said.

Many in attendance shared the hope that Hilinski's death will generate a larger discussion about depression and suicide and what can be done to help those who aren't open about their struggles.