Two years ago, this is how the Nebraska Cornhuskers honored punter Sam Foltz, who died during the previous offseason:
Yesterday, former Washington State Cougars All-American safety and part-time Cougfan.com commentator Paul Sorensen suggested WSU remember Tyler Hilinski in the same fashion: With WSU coming out on its first series minus a quarterback and taking a delay of game penalty, a gesture that surely would elicit applause, hugs and tears from not just those in attendance, but from those watching around the country.
Consider this my full endorsement.
As of now, there doesn’t appear to be a plan by WSU to directly acknowledge Hilinski’s death during this football season. There will be helmet stickers, there will be 10 seconds of highlights in a two-minute music video, there will be a pregame raising of the Coug flag by the Hilinski family at the home opener.
None of these adequately address the 10,000-pound elephant that might as well be sitting on the Cougar logo at the 50-yard-line: Whoever starts at quarterback this season, it won’t be the man it was supposed to be. To ignore that is, at best, foolish; at worst, it’s an insult to a family who sent their son to Pullman, only to have him not come home.
A WSU representative told me recently that the program is focused on “moving forward” — hence the reason you haven’t heard the team talk much about Tyler since the beginning of fall camp.
To that, I ask:
What better way to move forward than to say goodbye to Tyler together as one big Coug family?
What better way to tell the Hilinskis — who will be in attendance — what they and their son mean to us?
What better way to shine a light on the mental illness that cost Tyler his life and threatens to do so for countless others, while simultaneously pointing to the hope that’s the central message of the foundation that now bears Tyler’s name?
There are those who worry about the potential negative effects of placing too much emphasis on someone who died by suicide. But research has shown those effects are mitigated by pairing such public remembrances with announcements about resources that are available to those who are hurting from the death of someone they cared about.
I can already hear Glenn Johnson, with the gravitas that only he possesses in Martin Stadium, saying this, immediately after the penalty is declined:
“If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please know that you are loved, and know that there is help. Counselors will be stationed near sections 6 and 27, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255. You don’t have to suffer alone. Talk to someone. Your life is too important.”
Sorensen absolutely got it right, and I applaud him for leading the charge on this. Will you join me in standing with him by making your feelings known to Mike Leach, university president Kirk Schulz, and athletics director Pat Chun? And if you don’t use Twitter, leave your thoughts below — these sorts of things do have a way of making their way to Bohler Gym.