(Louisiana State University photo/used with permission.)
Former FSCC punter Derek Helton will be handling the punting duties for LSU as he has done all season thus far. Helton was the starting punter for the Greyhounds during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Helton, a Hoyt native, is averaging 40 yards per punt on 20 punts. Tigers opponents have only returned seven of them for a meager 7.5-yards average per return.
Fort Scott head coach Jeff Sims wasn't surprised by this average and total number of fair catches.
"What separated Derek Helton from other punters wasn't how far he punted the ball," Sims said, "but how high he punted the ball allowing time for the coverage team to get down field".
Helton said that the hard work that he did at FSCC made him better prepared for the next level.
"The biggest thing that I have taken to LSU from Fort Scott is my work ethic and toughness," Helton said. "At the Fort we took pride as a team being tougher than our opponents. As a kicker, everyone thinks we have it pretty easy but I felt I needed to do the same conditioning drills that the other players did. When I tackle someone I don't dive at their ankle like most kickers do. I like going high to bring them down".
Sims agreed on Helton's hard work.
"Derek had an extremely hard work ethic and is a true athlete," Sims said. "Derek participated and excelled in all aspects of our program, many times winning conditioning drills. Work ethic is what earned him the respect from his teammates".
When Derek Helton arrived on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge he knew he wasn't in little Fort Scott, Kan. anymore.
"The facilities at LSU are so nice," Helton says. "Everything looks new. LSU probably has the nicest facilities in the country and coming from the juco level where money is not readily available, it was a big change. As a player at a Division I university, you get whatever you need and sometimes what you don't need. Every year we get the newest shoes, clothes, bags and they are all name brand. The weight room is unbelievable, the newest equipment. It makes you appreciate things more coming from the juco level to the Division I level" Helton said.
When the Tigers play the Gators this weekend, they will be playing in front of over 90,000 screaming fans. When ask what adjustments he has made playing in front of such a large fan base compared to playing in front of only a few thousand at Fort Scott, Helton commented, "It's a great feeling playing in front of that many people because you experience how hostile away fans can be and how supportive home crowds (are). But nerves have not played a part. I feel I was more nervous when I played my first home game at the Fort my freshman year than my first game at LSU".
Helton said that he keeps up with the 2009 Hounds and keeps in touch with some of his former teammates: Jasmin Hopkins, Luke Halsey and Josh Baker just to name a few. Derek feels the coolest thing is to get to watch the ex-Hounds playing for other DI schools such as Lucien Antoine (Oklahoma State), Kwame Jordan (Louisiana Tech), Greg Cross (Pittsburgh), and others.
Derek said, "None of this would have been possible without the support of his parents and the rest of his family. I also want to thank Coach Sims and the other FSCC coaches, all of 'The Dawgs' from FSCC, Josh Baker, Jeff Jackson, Harrison Whightsil, Ashlie Boyett, Luke Snavely, Zac Dickey and their families."
He also wants to thank his friends from his hometown of Hoyt and the teachers at his former high school, Jefferson West High School.
The LSU-Florida game can be seen locally on KOAM, Channel 7, at 7 p.m.