The following letter has been written to Tyler Hilinski, and all persons dealing with depression and are in need of hope, help and love during our darkest hours.
I never had a chance to meet you, and we never crossed paths in life. Outside of the monumental USC win, I barely knew of you, and I knew nothing of your internal struggles. None of that really matters though.
The news of your untimely death rattled me to my core. When I see a college athlete, especially in the sport of football, I see an incredibly gifted and talented person in the prime of their life. Rarely does one think about the trials and tribulations of a collegiate athlete competing on one of the brightest stages, or the normal rigors of being a young adult trying to find their way in what can seem like a dark and scary world. On top of that, almost never does one think that these challenges, coupled with the glitz and glamour of ESPN’s bright lights, could lead someone to make the unfortunate decision to end their life.
Despite never meeting you, or ever crossing paths with you, I wish I could have had just five or ten minutes to talk with you. I wish I could have eased your fears in this unknown world, and to know you are loved. I wish I could have reiterated the value a son brings to two loving parents, and the joy a friend can bring to hundreds of close friends or casual acquaintances. I wish I could have eased your fears if an internal or external conflict seemed too tough to solve, and I wish I could tell you that tough times never last. I wish I could have told you the impact such news of your passing would send throughout your community, and throughout an entire nation of sports fans. I wish you could have a second chance.
Unfortunately a second chance is not in the cards. The permanent nature of suicide is what make its hole so deep, and its burn so painful. I pray you find peace, wherever you may be, and I hope your family, friends and teammates can find peace in coming months and years. Most importantly, I hope your death can inspire others in your situation to seek help, so that no other families go through such a devastating loss. And finally, I hope your death can inspire friends and family to make the extra phone call, or have the extra conversation, to help their loved one in need. I hope future teams of family and friends can pick up their loved ones on their shoulders, and carry them across the goal line to a victory in their battle.
I dream of a future where people are more open to seek help with whatever hurdles they face, and a future with more open arms to help them win the fight. This future can make your untimely and tragic death, no matter how difficult and devastating to process, a call to action for people around the world to provide hope, to provide help, and to provide love to people in need.
Rest in peace, Tyler. Godspeed.
We encourage anyone thinking of, or considering suicide to seek help immediately.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255