North squad quarterback Luke Falk, of Washington State, prepares to pass during practice for the Senior Bowl on Jan. 25, 2018, in Mobile, Ala. Falk is wearing a No. 3 jersey in honor of former teammate Tyler Hilinski, who committed suicide last week. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

North squad quarterback Luke Falk, of Washington State, prepares to pass during practice for the Senior Bowl on Jan. 25, 2018, in Mobile, Ala. Falk is wearing a No. 3 jersey in honor of former teammate Tyler Hilinski, who committed suicide last week. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

WSU’s Falk withdraws from Senior Bowl to attend Hilinski’s funeral

The QB has impressed during practice, but will miss the game to attend the funeral of his former teammate.

By Theo Lawson

The Spokesman-Review

Luke Falk has spent his week training in front of, and in most cases, impressing, the NFL scouts and evaluators at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. But the Washington State quarterback won’t play in the game itself.

Falk, as first reported by The Seattle Times, has withdrawn his name from the Senior Bowl in order to attend the funeral of WSU teammate and fellow quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who took his own life last Tuesday. The Senior Bowl kicks off at 11:30 a.m. PST Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Alabama. Hilinski’s funeral is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. the same day at Damien High School in La Verne, California.

After spending multiple days training alongside the likes of Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield in Alabama, many were convinced Falk had boosted his NFL draft stock as much as any quarterback in attendance.

On Wednesday, he logged the highest RPM of any quarterback on the North roster and recorded more throws (112) than any of his counterparts.

But Falk has also spent much of the week thinking about his late teammate and was planning to wear Hilinski’s No. 3 at Saturday’s game — as he has during every Senior Bowl practice throughout the week. Falk and WSU offensive lineman Cole Madison have both displayed crimson No. 3 stickers on their helmets in Mobile and passed the stickers out to their Senior Bowl teammates.

Falk also spoke extensively about Hilinski during a Senior Bowl press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“I mean words don’t describe the hurt we all felt as a team and seeing his family,” said Falk, who returned to Pullman with a handful of Cougar teammates to attend a candlelight vigil for Hilinski in front of Martin Stadium last Friday. “I think having that candlelight vigil really helped us come together and kind of have some closure, but I think it’ll always be with us. We really want Tyler to be remembered.”

In the wake of Hilinski’s death, many have pointed out the staggering, and tragic, statistic that suicide is the second-leading killer of American men between the ages of 18-45. Falk expanded on that during his 20-minute session with Senior Bowl reporters.

“It should be talked about and we should do something about it,” said Falk, wearing the white Nike hat with Hilinski’s No. 3 that Cougar linebacker Dylan Hanser passed out to teammates at Friday’s vigil. “I feel like at times we feel like we can’t express our emotions because we’re in a masculine sport and him being a quarterback, people look up to you like a leader, so he felt like he really probably couldn’t talk to anybody. We’ve got to change some of that stuff. We’ve got to have resources and not have any more stigma about people going to that.”

It’s unlikely that Falk’s withdrawal does much, if any, damage to his draft stock. At the Senior Bowl, NFL scouts gather more intel on prospects through individual drills, 7-on-7 periods and one-on-one interviews than they do through the game itself.

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