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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

By Sammy Batten

Pirates uncover recruiting gem in Florida

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

Mack Helms was home schooled up to the ninth grade and had absolutely no experience on the football field.

So what did Helms do upon enrolling at a Texas high school known as one of the state's perennial powers in football?

He tried out for the football squad.

“I never played a down of football until I stepped on the field in high school as a ninth grader,'' Helms said. “I had a really good coach there who worked with me and before long I was called up to the varsity as a back-up. I got into a few games and did the same thing as a sophomore. I would have started there last year, but we moved.''

Helms transferred to Leon High in Tallahassee, FL, where he blossomed as a defensive lineman and was discovered by East Carolina assistant coach Rick Smith. The Pirates would eventually offer Helms a scholarship, which he accepted last week.

ECU was the first and only major school to offer Helms, although Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa State, Marshall, South Florida and Southern Miss were showing interest. The number of offers would probably have been higher if Helms hadn't missed Leon's spring practice with an ankle injury.

“Truthfully, East Carolina was fortunate because he was hurt all during the spring,'' Leon coach Bill Ragans said. “If all those other guys had been able to see him in spring practice, and see his size and how hard he works, more people would have been on him.''

Helms said he was sold on East Carolina after making an unofficial visit to Greenville during the summer.

“We sat down and met every single one of the coaches,'' Helms said. “I was impressed with their character and how they handled themselves. And it really sounded like they had a position open for a defensive tackle, and that's what I was looking for.''

Helms is actually a Florida native who until the age of 5 lived in Milton. His father, Mack Helms III, played golf at the University of Florida. Mack III moved the family to Katy, TX, where they would spend the next 10 years. Katy is part of the metropolitan Houston area.

Mack IV spent his early years in Texas doing everything but playing the state's most popular sport. He instead toiled at baseball, basketball and golf before entering Katy High, where the football tradition includes six state titles, four of them since 2000.

“It was just one of those things that I thought I'd go out and try it,'' Helms said. “Football was something different. I tried it and I liked it, so I stuck with it.''

Ragans, who played at Florida State when ECU head coach Skip Holtz was a graduate assistant there, said Helms has a special intensity about him that has led to his success in football.

“Every play he just gives an unbelievable effort,'' Ragans said. “He plays 100 miles an hour. He turns heads with that effort alone. And that's something you can't teach.''

The Pirates have recruited the 6-foot-3, 275-pounder to play defensive tackle.

“I stand my ground in there, that's my strength,'' Helms said. “I don't let people move me out of the way. I just try to do my job and help my team win, no matter what it requires.''

The 18-year-old Helms is also a stellar student who carries a 3.07 cumulative grade point average.

E-mail Sammy Batten

Sammy Batten's Archives

09/16/2009 01:53:09 AM


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