Photo: Young Kwak (AP)

Washington State QB Tyler Hilinski’s family opened up to Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop about their son’s death by suicide and how they’ve been coping since. Hilinski was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound in January, and according to an autopsy of Hilinski’s brain performed by the Mayo Clinic, the 21-year-old already showed signs of Stage 1 CTE.

His parents joined Today this morning, and Hilinski’s father said medical examiners told him Tyler “had the brain of a 65-year-old, which is really hard to take.” “Did football kill Tyler? I don’t think so,” his mother told Sports Illustrated. “Did he get CTE from football? Probably. Was that the only thing that contributed to his death? I don’t know.”

According to a Whitman County autopsy, Hilinski had no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of his death. He also apparently had never fired a gun before going shooting with some teammates the day before he died, and he used a teammate’s rifle to take his life. Hilinski’s family, who recently started the Hilinski’s Hope foundation to help athletes struggling with mental illness, say there were no obvious signs that anything was going on with Hilinski, though he had been less responsive to calls and texts.

“People need to keep talking about suicide and mental illness and mental health,” his mother said. “We need to erase the stigma. ... There’s not enough out there for these beautiful athletes that give of themselves to their colleges, but their minds aren’t taken care of.”

[Sports Illustrated]