Boise St Washington St Football

Happier days: Tyler Hilinski (3) helped Washington State defeat Boise State in triple overtime in September 2017.

Arizona Wildcats linebacker Tony Fields II discussed a difficult topic Thursday — the suicide of former Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski.

Hilinski, 21, took his own life in January. Sports Illustrated reported in June that an autopsy showed Hilinski suffered from CTE, the brain disorder linked to head trauma

SI’s heartbreaking story about the Hilinski family dealing with his death also referenced a hit that Hilinski took in WSU’s game at Arizona on Oct. 28, 2017. Hilinski told his older brother that the hit had “rocked him.” He might have been referring to a collision with Fields.

On first-and-10 from the UA 12-yard line in the third quarter, Hilinski took off for the end zone. He dove toward the goal line. He and Fields rammed into each other at the 1. It was a violent, head-to-head crash — so severe that Fields thought he would be ejected for targeting.

“The first play I thought about was me and him on the goal line,” Fields said. “Then when I heard about the autopsy … I feel like I was a part of that.”

It’s impossible to say whether that tackle directly contributed to Hilinski’s CTE. But the possibility that it did weighs on Fields’ mind.

“I felt really bad,” he said. “To see a guy that I played against, that I shook hands with, ended up dead? It’s sad.”

Contact sports reporter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or mlev@tucson.com. On Twitter @michaeljlev