New Details Emerge From Death Of Washington State QB Tyler Hilinski

Tyler Hilinski died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in January. More

Hilinski, a backup quarterback for the Cougars, committed suicide at an apartment on January 16.

Tyler's parents Mark and Kym told "Today" show's Hoda Kotb that a Mayo Clinic study on his brain showed evidence of CTE, the brain disease that many studies have linked to playing football.

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a degenerative brain disease that has been found in many deceased football players and has caused increased scrutiny and discussion of brain injuries in athletes. Hillinski is only the second active football player known to have had CTE at the time of his death. Probably. Was that the only thing that contributed to his death? "I don't think so", said Kym during the segment in a voiceover, which featured footage that showed Hilinski on the field with his teammates. "We wanted to know everything we could, find out everything we could, so of course we immediately we said sure", he said of the Clinic's request. The Hilinksi family said they were told that their son's brain resembled that of a 65-year-old person. "I don't think he'd want me to stop".

The staggering findings accompany Sports Illustrated's reporting on Hilinski's well-being and condition at the time of his death, including that a doctor told Tyler's mother that his brain looked "like that of a much older, elderly man".

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The family's other son also appeared in the documentary. Tyler's younger brother, Ryan, is committed to play football at USC. "The reality is we missed it and we let him down", his father says. "And to realize that the sport that he loved may have contributed to that diagnosis".

This is heartbreaking, I still can't get past that visceral feeling of anger. The interview comes alongside the debut of a new Sports Illustrated documentary about the family's search for answers.

His family has started a foundation, Hilinski's Hope, in Tyler's honor with "the goal of keeping Tyler's memory alive and generating the funding necessary to support programs that will help destigmatize mental illness". Its aim is promote mental health among student athletes. "They need it. There's not enough out there".

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