University of South Carolina true freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski started his collegiate quarterbacking career on Saturday, Sept. 7 when the Gamecocks handed Charleston Southern University a resounding 72-10 loss in their home opener in Columbia, SC.
Following senior quarterback Jake Bentley’s season-ending foot injury, it was time for Hilinski to shine, and shine he did. The big takeaway from the game surrounded the freshman quarterback, and not only his performance on the field, but also he and his family’s backstory.
Hilinski, the freshman from Orange, California, enrolled at USC in January after committing to the Gamecocks last April, ensuring he would be in South Carolina for Spring Training to prepare for his first college football season.
Big Ty! The time has come. Thank you for everything yesterday… I’m bringing you and the family with me!
110% Committing to South Carolina!
SPURS UP! 🐔🤙🏻 pic.twitter.com/J1GMwaC0t6
— Ryan Hilinski (@ryan_hilinski) April 4, 2018
Mark and Kym Hilinski, Ryan’s parents, decided when he committed to USC, they were going to move to South Carolina with him, so they sold their house and cars and relocated to Irmo, a small town right outside of Columbia. Dawn Davenport, an SEC Network reporter sat down with Hilinski’s parents in the stands during the final quarter of the game Saturday. The Hilinskis expressed gratitude and appreciation for the love and support from the university, the team, and the fans since they have moved to South Carolina.
Hilinski, the youngest of three sons, was the last of the three boys to play football at the next level, and his high school accolades show why he was so highly recruited. Hilinski was offered scholarships at many schools, including LSU, Georgia, Ohio State, and UCLA, but in the end, he chose South Carolina as his new home. Hilinski threw for 2771 yards and 29 scores in 2018, completing 222 of 346 passes. Hilinski was also invited to the World Bowl All-Star Game and the Army All-American Bowl and recorded a total of 8102 passing yards for 85 touchdowns in his high school career and was ranked the 12th-best player in California.
Hilinski’s older brothers also played college football. His brother Kelly played quarterback for Columbia and Weber State, and oldest brother Tyler, four years Ryan’s senior, was a rising star quarterback for Washington State. However, in January of 2018, tragedy struck the family when Tyler Hilinski committed suicide. Ryan made his decision to commit to South Carolina the day after spreading his late brother’s ashes in the Pacific Ocean.
During the interview Davenport, Kym Hilinski expressed that Tyler’s memory would forever live on in the family’s non-profit mental health awareness program, Hilinski’s Hope. She expressed if she had no idea her son was suffering from mental health problems, she knows there are many others out there suffering in silence, and it is her hope to remove the stigma from mental health issues and for those who do suffer to know it’s okay to not be okay.
Ryan wears the No. 3 in honor of his deceased brother, whose number was also three, and Hilinski looked to the sky and held up three fingers following his two touchdown passes and rushing touchdown during his first game in Columbia Saturday. His mom said she accidentally cheered aloud for Tyler during the game Saturday, and was taken aback by doing so, but then she explained that she felt as if they were both on the field, and Tyler would always be his younger brother’s angel.
While Ryan Hilinski produced record-breaking results in his first game as the South Carolina starting quarterback, his determination, grit, and hard work in the midst of family tragedy was the real story, that, and the angel on the field.
For more information on Hilinskis Hope, or to contribute to the foundation, visit www.hilinskishope.org.