Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman (4) talks to South Carolina defensive back Korey Banks on the field after the football game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina on Sept. 8, 2018. The University of Georgia football team played against the University of South Carolina for their second game of the season. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

Georgia fans are calling on others to support a South Carolina football gameday tradition — “Forever to Three,” to honor the death of the brother of South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski. Per the tradition, students raise three fingers up to the sky during the beginning and end of the third quarter.

In the beginning of the third quarter, a video of three fingers and the words, “You are not alone” shines on the screens in South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium.

In 2018 Tyler Hilinski, then-quarterback for the Washington State Cougars, wore #3 on his jersey as he led his team to the Holiday Bowl against Michigan State. He was 21 years old. Nineteen days later, Tyler died by suicide. Tyler was later found to have stage one chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease that has been found to be common among football players.

Later that year, Kym and Mark Hilinski created the foundation, “Hilinski’s Hope” to keep Tyler’s “memory alive” and bring awareness to mental health among student athletes.

“I’d like to give an enormous thank you to UGA fans,” Mark said in an interview. “We’re proud of UGA students for supporting us and student athletes.”

The importance of mental health connects with UGA fans, like Maridell Thompson, who posted a petition for UGA fans to participate in the USC tradition this Saturday on Facebook.

Thompson has children that go to USC and UGA — just two weeks ago, she attended a game in Williams-Brice stadium and felt moved to tears after seeing the sky filled with three fingers up for the Hilinski family.

“I’ve lost three family members and one close family friend to suicide,” Thompson said. “Every college student should never feel alone.”

USC cheerleaders sparked the “Forever to Three” tradition during USC’s game against Alabama on Sept. 14. The tradition’s name is inspired by lyrics from USC’s alma mater: Here’s a health, Carolina, forever to thee.”

Lauren Finamore, senior nursing major and USC cheerleader, said the importance of mental health to the cheerleaders and students is “tremendous,” so they sought to use their platform to “benefit a great cause.”

“We hope that this is a tradition that lasts and eventually reaches to other schools, like Georgia is setting the example of,” Finamore said.

In a statement to The Red & Black, Charles Bloom, USC executive associate athletics director called UGA’s support of the Hilinski family “heartwarming.”

“There are issues more important than a football game,” Bloom said. “It is good to see fans of opponents on the field can come together and support a great cause as Hilinski’s Hope.”

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