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Clemson Football

Hunter Helms: A house divided, but a heart for Clemson

October 23, 2020
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CLEMSON, S.C. - Clemson quarterback Hunter Helms began last week going through his usual reps in practice with Brent Venables' scout team. By the time the scoreboard in Atlanta flashed all zeros on Saturday, he’d tossed his first two career touchdown passes.

Helms, a freshman out of Columbia, S.C., entered the game against Georgia Tech after third-string QB Taisun Phommachanh suffered two broken bones in his hand. The coaching staff had already ruled out backup D.J. Uiagalelei with shoulder tightness. As the fourth quarter got started, so began Helms’ time to shine.

“It was great, a dream come true,” said Helms. “I hate it for D.J. and definitely Taisun. I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m always trying to stay ready as much as I can and prepare like a starter.”

From the looks of his performance against the Jackets, Helms could step in if needed — knock on wood — and fulfill the starting role. He completed five of his seven passing attempts for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Helms’ two touchdown tosses immortalized him at Clemson, as the freshman became the first walk-on in school history to accomplish the feat in a game.

Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott also sang Helms’ praises following the game.

“Hunter Helms is a guy that works really hard,” said Elliott. “Kudos to him. He’s a guy that’s in every meeting but doesn’t get many reps… for him to be able to come in and pretty much run the offense… really pleased and happy for him.”

Before Saturday’s impressive showing, Helms had thrown a whopping two collegiate passes, both of which came against the Citadel on Sept. 19. Even though his experience began with such a minimal dose of action, Helms says it played a huge role in soothing his nerves against Tech.

“It kind of settled me down, getting those few snaps against the Citadel,” Helms explained. “I was definitely more calm.”

In Helms’ press conference following the Tigers’ win over the Jackets, his humility shined through. Helms’ quiet and reserved demeanor spoke loudly as the freshman QB talked about what it meant to him to be a Clemson Tiger.

The three-star high school quarterback had received scholarship offers from USF, Troy and Charleston Southern among others during the recruitment process. Helms had also officially committed to Holy Cross — an FCS school — before retracting and accepting Clemson's walk-on offer.

“My family and I talked about it a lot,” said Helms. “We prayed about it, and I just felt like this was my calling. [Clemson] has always been my dream school… I’ve been coming up here since I was 2 or 3. It just felt right.”

Courtesy of ACC Media Portal
Helms and D.J. Uiagalelei go through warm-ups before Clemson faces the Citadel on Sept. 19, 2020.

Helms’ family — having called Columbia home for years — naturally leaned toward Gamecock fandom. Yet the freshman says garnet and black were never the only colors of choice in the Helms household.

“My family’s kind of split. My dad was a huge Carolina fan, and my mom’s side was Clemson. As I was growing up, I was going to both [Clemson and South Carolina] games.”

Helms laughed as he recalled “talking a little trash” to some of his Columbia-based friends and family in high school. Despite living in a house divided and residing within enemy territory, Helms says there was never a question about which team had his heart.

“Clemson really stuck with me,” he recalled.

And heading into this Saturday’s face-off against Syracuse, it would appear a wise decision for Clemson to stick with Helms, too.

Helms likely will line up as second-string quarterback vs. the Orange behind Trevor Lawrence. Should the game again get out of hand quickly, he could have his name called to take over behind center early. But whenever the coaching staff dials Helms’ number, Tiger fans can count on the freshman walk-on to lead the Tiger offense with confidence.

“I’m just going to come out here and take it day-by-day. We’ll see what happens.”

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Hunter Helms: A house divided, but a heart for Clemson

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