Lada: "I Started Crying In The Middle Of That Interview"

Jen Lada will never forget telling the tragic story of former Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski

The DA Show
June 08, 2020 - 10:34 am

ESPN’s Jen Lada has a rewarding yet difficult job. She is a storyteller, and a gifted one at that, but many of those stories involve tragedy and heartbreak.

“The older you get and the more you add to your own family – I have three children – so at any point when speaking to somebody about the loss of a child, I feel that deeply,” Lada said on The DA Show. “I put myself in their shoes. Sometimes that feels counterproductive in that space because I don’t want to be blinded by my own emotion, but I do think it helps sometimes that the person knows that you have that compassion, that you’re coming from a place of empathy, that you understand this is hard for them.”

ESPN, Lada said, is extremely grateful that so many people have allowed the network to tell their stories over the years, to “push on these scars” for everyone to see.

“None of these families have to do any of this stuff,” Lada said. “We are so appreciative that they are letting us share their stories with the world.”

ESPN’s story about Tyler Hilinski is an example of that. The former Washington State quarterback took his own life in 2018. It was determined that he had CTE.
Hilinski’s family then had to decide whether Tyler’s younger brother, Ryan, now a quarterback at South Carolina, would continue his football career.

“I started crying in the middle of that interview with Mark Hilinski – Tyler and Ryan’s father,” Lada said. “He said something so profound and so heartbreaking that for me to sit there with a stone face would have been inauthentic. So I always tell people one of the keys to this industry is authenticity. If you can’t be an authentic, compassionate human being in those moments, I think naturally he’s going to look at me and go, ‘Did she hear what I just said? Am I talking to a cyborg? What’s this chick’s deal?’ I was a little bit embarrassed. I actually apologized at the time. I think it came back that it was actually one of those moments where we really connected because they understood that I was with them in that pain space."