Washington State University Quarterback Tyler Hilinski, a standout football player at Upland High School, was found dead in his Pullman, Washington, apartment with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said Tuesday night.
Hilinksi's body was discovered around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday after officers were dispatched to the Aspen Village Apartments to perform a welfare check on a football player who failed to show up to practice that day, according to a Pullman Police Department news release obtained by KTLA sister station KCPQ in Seattle.
Police believe the 21-year-old shot himself in the head.
"A rifle was recovered next to Hilinski and a suicide note was found,” the release stated.
Detectives and the Whitman County coroner's office are working to confirm a cause of death, police said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hilinski family," Washington State President Kirk Schulz said in a tweet.
John Johnson, the university's interim athletic director, released a statement on Facebook page Tuesday night, calling Hilinski's death "tragic" and remembering the young man as a "tremendous individual, great friend and teammate."
In a statement tweeted by the university, head coach Mike Leach also expressed condolences, saying he was "deeply saddened to hear the news of Tyler's passing."
Hilinski, a redshirt sophomore, was the backup to quarterback Luke Falk for the Cougars last season and was expected to compete for the starting job this fall.
He appeared in eight games during the 2017 season for the Pac-12 school, passing for 1,176 yards and seven touchdowns. He led the Cougars to a comeback victory over Boise State and made his first collegiate start -- a 47-14 loss to No. 18 Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl -- late last month, according to his biography on Washington State's website.
Hilinski, from Claremont, played quarterback for two years at Upland High School, where he set or broke nine school records.
“I’m having a hard time to understand it all,” Upland Coach Tom Salter told the Los Angeles Times. “I feel so bad for the family.”
His first two years of high school were at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, where his older brother Kelly starred as the team's quarterback, according to the Times.
“It’s so sad,” Notre Dame assistant Joe McNab told the newspaper. “He was an awesome kid. I feel so bad for his family. It’s awful.”
Hilinski's youngest brother Ryan is the quarterback at Orange Lutheran, and the junior is considered among the state's top prospects. As news of his brother's death began to spread, Ryan Hilinski took to Twitter and asked people to keep his family in their prayers.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts and needs help, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Information at 1-800-273-8255.