Luke Falk leaves Senior Bowl to attend Tyler Hilinski's funeral

Washington State product Luke Falk left the Senior Bowl Friday in order to attend the funeral of late teammate Tyler Hilinski.

Falk participated in drills and interviews with NFL teams in Mobile, Alabama, throughout the week but will not play in the Senior Bowl game Saturday in order to travel to Southern California to attend the service for Hilinski, who took his own life Jan. 16.

Hilinski was Falk’s backup for the Cougars and started at quarterback in place of Falk in the Holiday Bowl while Falk was sidelined with an injury. With Falk, the Pac-12’s all-time leader in passing, off to the NFL, Hilinski was slated to take over as Washington State’s starting quarterback in 2018.

Before flying out to Mobile, Falk attended a candlelight vigil for Hilinski in Pullman. Throughout the week, Falk has worn Hilinski’s No. 3 jersey number and handed out No. 3 stickers with fellow WSU teammate Cole Madison.

When speaking with reporters about Hilinski’s death, Falk poignantly addressed the issue of suicide.

“It should be talked about, and we should do something about it,” he said. “I feel like at times we feel like we can’t express our emotions because we’re in a masculine sport and him being a quarterback, people look up to you as a leader. He felt like he really probably couldn’t talk to anybody. We’ve got to change some of that stuff. We have to have resources and not have a stigma of people going to that.”

Falk spoke about suicide being one of the leading causes of death of men between the ages of 18 and 45, and wants to be part of changing that. He showed an uncommon vulnerability amid a football setting, admitting he and his teammates have been riddled with guilt about what they could have done differently. “All of us that were close to him just kind of go back and ask ourselves, ‘Were there signs? What could we have done?’ ” he said. “I think we all kind of feel a little bit of guilt. I wish I could give him one more hug. I wish I could give him a pat on the butt one more time and let him know that he’s loved.”

After Hilinski’s death, Falk released the following statement:

“We are heartbroken and devastated with the passing of Tyler. Like many, we are in disbelief. He was an amazing person who brought love and joy to everyone who was fortunate enough to know him. Not only did he touch the lives of those close to him but also the lives of people who we are sure he was unaware of.

“Tyler had a constant drive for perfection that should encourage us to fulfill our dreams. I hope that we can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We pray that Tyler and his family realize all the great things he accomplished in his time with us.”

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Sam Cooper is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!