Another home game, another heart-felt initiative by Georgia fans toward the visiting opponent.
The Bulldog Nation plans to honor South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski with a show of support in the third quarter Saturday when the Gamecocks come to Sanford Stadium. Hilinski’s older brother, Tyler, was the starting quarterback at Washington State when he died by suicide in 2018.
South Carolina fans pay respects to the Hilinski family at every home game by holding up three fingers during and after the first play of the third quarter to draw attention to suicide awareness and support for Hilinski’s Hope, a fundraising initiative that seeks “to educate, advocate and destigmatize mental illness.”
The idea of Georgia joining the Gamecocks in upholding this new tradition appears to have gotten started on social media by Maridel Thompson Banks of Suwanee. Banks has two children, one of whom attends UGA and other at South Carolina. She shared the idea in a post on the Georgia Bulldogs’ Facebook page on Monday afternoon.
“As a parent of both a UGA student and a Univ of S Carolina Gamecock student, I would love to see our Dawg Nation fans honor the USC Quarterback, Ryan Hilinski and his late brother Tyler, who died by suicide his junior year (1/18) while he was the starting quarterback for Washington State. Ryan wears #3 to honor his brother. USC fans pause and raise their hand with 3 fingers during & after the first play in the third quarter to show support for Hilinskis Hope and “Forever to Three”. Let’s show the Gamecocks, Ryan and the Hilinski family our support for suicide awareness during the game this Saturday.”
Tyler Hilinski wore the No. 3 as the starting quarterback at Washington State. He died of suicide Jan. 16, 2018. He was 21.
It should come as no surprise if Georgia fans follow through on Banks’ request Saturday. The Bulldogs have proved lately to have one of college football’s more compassionate fan bases. UGA fans overwhelmed Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson when they decided to “pink out” Sanford Stadium by wearing pink in his honor Sept. 14. Anderson’s wife, Wendy, died only three weeks earlier after a two-year bout with breast cancer.
The year before, UGA fans launched a fundraising campaign in support of Landrey Eargle, the daughter of an Austin Peay assistant coach who had been plunged into debt seeking a cure for her extremely rare disease. The #ForTheLoveOfLandrey campaign raised more than $100,000 as a result, including $5,000 donated by Kirby and Mary Beth Smart.
Georgia fans will conduct another “pink out” at Sanford Stadium when Kentucky visits Oct. 19 as part of its annual observance of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month.
While the Bulldog Nation is planning to honor Ryan Hilinski and his family’s cause Saturday, the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs will be trying to figure out how to stop him. The Gamecocks’ offense has shown marked improvement under the direction of the 6-foot-3, 230-pound freshman from Orange, Fla. He comes to Athens having completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 912 yards and five touchdowns and three interceptions. He had a 75-yard touchdown pass against Missouri and threw for two touchdowns against Alabama on Sept. 14.
Hilinski stepped in after senior quarterback Jake Bentley suffered a foot injury in the opener against North Carolina.
“He just does not play like a freshman,” Smart said. “Hilinski’s done a great job of whipping the ball, throwing quick-game stuff, vertical down the field. He’s got a really good group of wideouts, and they do a great job of putting them in successful situations. So he's made that transition really smooth.”
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