Arizona Wildcats linebacker Tony Fields II was shaken when he heard former Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski committed suicide in January.
“I felt real bad,” he said. “It was a sad situation, just to see a guy that I played against, a guy that I shook hands with ... ended up dead. It’s sad.”
An autopsy later showed Hilinski showed signs of CTE, a degenerative brain disease that is caused by repeated blows to the head. The symptoms include depression, cognitive impairment and suicidal thoughts or actions.
The news of the diagnosis upset Fields, too, because he once put a big hit on Hilinski.
“The first play I thought about was me and him on the goal-line, and me and him came head-to-head,” Fields said. “I thought I was going to get thrown out of the game. It was a crazy hit. It was a crazy situation.”
An @SInow story said QB Tyler Hilinski took a hit in the Arizona-Washington State game that “rocked him” and led to “some changes in Tyler.”— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) August 9, 2018
Hilinski later commit suicide, and Arizona LB Tony Fields has had a difficult time coping with that. pic.twitter.com/LpyYPEmeew
The hit Fields is referring to happened in the third quarter of last season’s matchup between Arizona and Washington State. Hilinski scrambled toward the end zone and lowered his head once he neared the goal-line, colliding head on with Fields.
The WSU quarterback later told his brother, Taylor, that the hit “rocked” him and Hilinski’s parents said they noticed some changes in the quarterback’s behavior thereafter.
He was dead just a few months later.
“When I (saw) what happened and heard about the autopsy ... it was sad because I feel like I was a part of that,” Fields said. “It was very sad.”
It hasn’t been easy for Fields to cope, and it wouldn’t be surprising if that play crosses his mind the next time he’s going in for a tackle.
“You gotta play football the way they want you to play now,” he said. “You can’t hit towards the head, you’ve gotta use your shoulders more than anything, hit more below the belt, honestly. You don’t want to hit high. The more you hit high, the more chance you have of hurting your head, getting a head injury long-term or short-term.”