"It was really unexpected. It was after a B2G Sunday workout and I was just making my calls. I asked, 'Hey coach, where do I stand?' and he said 'Funny you ask, because we want to offer you.' I was just kind of like, 'what?' I felt like I didn't hear him right. We had been talking once a week, building that relationship, and I felt like something was going to come sooner or later, but he had wanted to see me in person. I sent them a workout tape to count as that and it just happened," he said.
For Hilinski, getting his initial offer took off some of the pressure that many players feel headed into their senior seasons.
"It was a sigh of relief; it's been a long journey and my parents have been really helpful, my family and my friends, and it's been great having that first one. Hopefully more will come," he said.
The 6'6", 220 lb. quarterback has been hearing from a good number of programs and is keeping his options open.
"I'm really talking to Stanford. I know a kid (quarterback Ryan Burns) committed there but I'm still talking to them. I'm also in communication with USC, Oklahoma, Washington State, and Oregon State; I call them once or twice a week along with Colorado and Utah," he said.
Hilinski went in-depth on a few of the PAC-12 programs.
"Washington State is a great program. They throw a lot, which fits my style of quarterback and obviously I want to go in and play and compete. They are going to be a good team the next couple of years and I just want to throw the ball. They offer the right offense, I like the coaching staff, I have a great connection with them, and the ability to play and to win. They are high on my list," he said.
Academics is a strong point for Hilinski and it's one of the reasons he's a fan of the Cardinal program.
"To me, Stanford is the best program that combines athletics and academics in the whole country. To play for them would be an absolute honor. The coaches are great and I have a great relationship with them. Academics are top tier and they run the pro-style offense that I fit in most, so it's a great combination," he said.
The quarterback also likes the hometown Trojans and recently attended their Junior Day.
"I have a great relationship with Coach Clay Helton and Coach Lane Kiffin. They are both great guys and they've been producing quarterbacks who make it to the NFL. They really know what they're doing and they do a great job of winning and being great at what they do," he said.
Though nothing has officially been set, Hilinski does have plans to take a few visits during the off-season.
"In the spring, I'll take visits to USC, Stanford, Oregon State, Washington State, Arkansas, and a couple of other SEC schools, just kind of make the rounds and talk to the coaches I've been communicating with. I just want to view the campuses and get a feel for the coaches, have some one on one time with them," he said.
Aside from putting time into his recruitment, Hilinski has also been training out both with his teammates and at B2G with his 7on7 team.
"I'm doing morning lifting every day, running with the track team, just getting faster and throwing every day after school with my receivers," he said.
There are a few areas of Hilinski's game that he's spending the most time on tweaking.
"My speed and agility are primarily what I'm focusing on. I'm also working on my accuracy; I can always get more accurate. Training for speed is just repetition; you do agility drills again and again and again to better prepare yourself for game-type situations, which is when you need it most," he said.
Overall, the quarterback is looking forward to his senior season and playing with a team that boasts some talented players, including one of the state's top running backs in Khalfani Muhammad.
"We're going to be really good this season. It's awesome, we have a great bunch of guys led by a great coach and we're really close. I do think we're going to surprise a lot of people, but you just have to stay humble and keep working hard. That's all we're doing right now," he said.