DUBLIN (AP) — Ryan Hilinski says Ireland will always be a special place for his family, and not just because of Northwestern's 31-28 victory over Nebraska on Saturday.
The Wildcats quarterback was in Ireland a decade ago to watch his older brother, Tyler, play in a youth tournament. Tyler died by suicide in 2018.
“My parents write me a card before every game,” he said after the game at Aviva Stadium.
Inside the card was Tyler's “Ireland 2012” patch from his jersey.
Tyler was a quarterback at Washington State who was expected to start in the 2018 season before he died at age 21. Doctors later revealed that Tyler had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disorder linked to repeated head trauma.
“To open your card and see this fall out, I mean it's pretty special. As soon as I saw my mom tonight, I was like, ‘The Hilinskis are now 2-0 in Ireland.’ So definitely Ireland has got a special place in my heart, a special place in the Hilinskis' heart for sure,” Ryan said.
He kept the patch with him during the game, too, under his thigh pad.
“I don’t know, something extra like that can help a little bit. So that was with me the whole game. And yeah, it just felt like Tyler was out there and he got another win, as well as us. It’s something I’ll remember forever."
After their son's death, Mark and Kym Hilinski launched a foundation called Hilinski’s Hope to advocate for mental health awareness.
Ryan Hilinski threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday to help Northwestern rally to victory after trailing 28-17 in the third quarter.
The California native began his college career at South Carolina before transferring to Northwestern.
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