Washington State quarterback and NFL Draft prospect Luke Falk has a heavy heart and a lot to accomplish this week as he prepares for the Reese’s Senior Bowl this Saturday in Mobile, AL. Just less than a week ago, last Friday, Falk attended a candlelight service for his former teammate and backup quarterback, Tyler Hilinski. The late Hilinski was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on January 16th.
With so much on his mind, as he gets set to give scouts one more glimpse at what he could offer NFL teams, Falk decided to make a big move this week in order to carry his former teammate with him. To honor Hilinski, Falk switched his jersey number from four to three – Hilinski wore this number for the duration of his tenure at Washington State. Hilinski had been Falk’s backup for all three of their seasons together, and their relationship had grown quite close.
“I felt like it’s what I needed to do,” Falk told the media on Tuesday. “He needs to be remembered. He was an amazing person, an amazing soul. This guy was one of the most outgoing, bubbly… just a guy you really want to be around. People need to know it.”
Falk sported a white hat on Tuesday during media day at the Senior Bowl, but not just any hat. He had one custom made with Hilinski’s number embroidered on the side of it. Falk said that one of the most important parts of their relationship was that they were both incredibly competitive and pushed each other to be better every day. Falk said that this competition was out of love for one another.
“I think all of us that were close to him just kind of go back and ask ourselves ‘were there signs, what could we have done?’ I think we all kind of feel a little bit of guilt,” Falk admitted. “I wish I could give him one more hug, one more pat on the butt and let him know he’s loved.”
In today’s society, there has been more and more awareness brought to the subject of mental health and mental illness. Still, many people are afraid to talk about it or seek help. Falk desires to change that stigma.
“I really want people to start talking about suicide,” Falk said. “It’s the second-leading killer in men from 18-45 years old and I don’t think we’re doing enough to talk about it and get those people help. I think us as men really suppress our emotions and feel like we can’t express what’s really going on and how we feel. I think we need the resources and trust that we can do that.”
Falk seemed eager to take action.
”It should be talked about,” he said. “And we should do something about it. 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 as a leader, so he felt like he really probably couldn’t talk to anybody. You know, we gotta change some of that stuff.”
Falk got off to a great start at practice this week. ESPN’s Todd McShay called Falk “the most consistent quarterback” on either of the teams practicing on Tuesday. This class of quarterbacks coming out in 2018 is an interesting one, to say the least. There are questions revolving around all of them, so for Falk, this could be a huge showing for him and greatly improve his draft stock.
At the moment, Falk is projected to be anywhere from a third to a fifth round pick, depending upon who you ask. McShay has him currently labeled as the seventh ranked quarterback in this year’s class. The system in which Falk worked during college, the Air Raid spread system, has led college prospects to various results in the NFL. Falk is out to prove his game can translate.
“I’m just here to play football, show what I can do and interview well and show teams that I’m the right guy for them, and I’m a franchise quarterback, and I’m gonna win Super Bowls,” Falk said.
“I think the proof is in the pudding. You can go back and watch my film,” Falk said, alluding to Washington State’s improvement while he was there. “People are gonna have questions about whether I can transition or whatever, but Jared Goff’s doing a great job, it looks like Pat Mahomes is doing a great job [after they ran similar offenses in college]. So I’m gonna be just fine.”
Falk enjoyed a lot of success while playing with the Cougars. He compiled over 14,000 yards, 119 passing touchdowns and just 39 interceptions. Falk’s completion percentage never finished a season below 64 percent, with a career-high 70 percent in the 2016 season. He also never finished with a rating under 137.0, with a career-high 145.9 in 2015.
A couple of fun stats for Falk include throwing for over 500 yards on one occasion and 600 yards on another. He threw for five touchdowns in a game nine different times and tossed six scores twice in his career at Washington State.
Falk’s biggest strength is the fact that he is an accurate passer. He also has very solid arm strength. The biggest concern going into the Draft for scouts is his ability to see certain coverage, however that is something that he can absolutely sharpen with the right coaching. The other major concern, as previously alluded to, is the fact that Falk’s college system is not necessarily preparing him for the NFL. The Air Raid spread system is a shotgun system, so Falk is going to need lots of reps under center in order to get accustomed to a pro-style offense. As a 6’4”205lb quarterback, some have said that he is a bit skinny and could afford to put on a little weight, but that is minor in comparison to other concerns he could present.
Overall, Falk appears to be in line to at least get drafted and compete for more than just a roster spot. It is definitely not farfetched to think he could be a starter in the next couple of years if he gets into the right situation. With some newfound inspiration from his former teammate, it’s fair to say that the NFL should be ready for a guy on a mission.