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Sep 08, 2023

Hunter Helms | Where He Belongs

By: Andrew Cameron

Note: The following appears in the Charleston Southern football gameday program.

If you asked Hunter Helms about his time as a Clemson Tiger, he would give you a smile and say that overall, he has had a great college experience. A recent graduate as of this past May with a degree in construction science & management, Helms has also tacked on two ACC Championship Game victories during his time with the program. Stating that he could not ask for more than graduating and winning a championship, Helms is expectant for this upcoming season.

A West Columbia, S.C. native, Helms grew up playing both baseball and football. An attendee of Gray Collegiate Academy, Helms originally favored baseball through his freshman year of high school. However, the starting quarterback spot was up for grabs entering his sophomore season, and he knew he had a shot at it.

“I was in competition for the starting quarterback role going into my sophomore year, and I really took that to heart and realized that is what I wanted to be. I started meeting regularly with Coach (Brett) Bethune to watch film, and we would be in there at 6 a.m. watching film and looking over plays.”

The aforementioned coach is an assistant at Gray Collegiate Academy and someone who Helms credits as a mentor while he learned to play the quarterback position. With guidance from Bethune, Helms ultimately went on to win the starting job.

“Truly learning how to compete and earn something was a great experience. I still have that work ethic to this day. I eventually won the starting job and went on to have a pretty solid high school career.”

Helms’ 4,000+ yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior led to offers from various Division I schools, including South Florida and Troy. While he did not receive a scholarship offer from Clemson, he nevertheless decided to walk on and do his best to earn a spot on the team.

“Clemson was always my dream school. I grew up going to Clemson games and loved it. I was blessed to receive a few offers from other great schools and I visited them, but I realized I didn’t want to have that regret of wishing I went to Clemson and at least try to earn a spot on the team.

“I knew with my work ethic at the time, I could possibly earn a scholarship, so I really wanted to go in and give it a shot at this level. Living with no regrets was a main driving factor in the decision to come to Clemson.”

While only seeing playing time in five games during his first three years with the program, Helms has enjoyed getting to know and learning from the recent starting quarterbacks, Trevor Lawrence and DJ Uiagalelei.

“Being with Trevor for that one season (2020) helped me learn a lot. I remember following him to the quarterback room when he would go in to watch film so I could ask questions and pick his brain. He was a great mentor to me. DJ is one of my best friends to this day, and I also learned a lot from him.”

When asked about some memorable experiences while being on the team, Helms chuckled as he recounted a few.

“In my freshman year, I was on the scout team. Not many people know this, but I was playing wide receiver at the time. I took full advantage of that and made sure to always tape up and wear gloves. One time I made a catch and must have gotten in the way of Baylon Spector, because he rocked me. I learned not to do that again.”

On a more serious note, Helms recalled the 2020 Georgia Tech game as being a defining moment for his time wearing a Tiger uniform. His two touchdowns in that game cemented his place in the Clemson annals as one of three walk-ons with a passing touchdown since 1954, and the only original walk-on to throw two touchdowns in a game while still on walk-on status.

“That Georgia Tech game will always be a surreal moment for me and my family. Since I grew up a Clemson fan, it was really cool to be able to produce on the field for the Tigers.”

Along with being a student-athlete, Helms is also a P.A.W. Journey ambassador. Clemson’s P.A.W. Journey is a leadership initiative designed to develop football student-athletes through holistic maturity in multiple facets of life. The acronym stands for “Passionate About Winning.”

“I knew coming into Clemson that I wanted to be P.A.W. Journey ambassador. It really pushed me to get better at things I’ve been uncomfortable with in the past, such as public speaking. It has also developed me from a leadership standpoint and has helped me with life in general.”

Helms graduated in May and is currently in the process of earning his MBA, but he is unsure of whether it will take him one or two years to complete the degree program. He is also considering using his COVID eligibility year to stay an extra year and pursue an additional master’s degree in athletic leadership.

“Long term, I’m going to ride this football thing out as long as I can and see where it takes me. The NFL is obviously the dream, but I have a major in construction science & management, and owning my own construction company one day wouldn’t be too bad of a deal. Coaching is up there too, but I also have some time to think about it. I wouldn’t say I’m in any rush right now.”

Helms is looking forward to the remainder of the season as he hopes to contribute to the team in any way he can. While his goal is always to maximize his learning, he also possesses the leadership qualities, gained through being both an upperclassman and through P.A.W. Journey, necessary to guide his younger teammates and fellow quarterbacks as they progress through their football careers in Tigertown.