It’s hard enough to play high school football, let alone play it well enough to earn a college scholarship. It’s even harder when you are used to playing European style “dodge” football and it’s your first year on the team.
But learn the system and impress the scouts is exactly what Liberty County High School football player Devin Helvie did and it paid off last week when he signed a letter of intent to play at Shorter University in Rome.
Helvie said it was a great feeling, but no one was more proud than his father, Andrew, who watched every game his son played as a Panther on the sidelines.
“It has been a long road and I am very appreciative to coach Warner and the coaching staff because Devin came from Germany after playing three years of dodge football, and to come here for one year,” Andrew Helvie said. “For him to be able to sign and go play football is a credit to Liberty County, coach Warner and his staff, the Glazer brothers, coach Mims, coach McGee and everybody. It was a collective effort. They were able to place five kids to go play football and get their secondary education. It is amazing and it’s a great feeling that he was a part of this. I just wish they had him for four years.”
Helvie was a member of the Panther defense that shut out the Statesboro Blue Devils in a 29-0 victory on Sept. 17. Just one week later they blanked Richmond Hill 13-0.
“I think Devin’s best games were against Richmond Hill and Statesboro,” his father said. “Statesboro was a collective defensive effort and everybody played their assigned roles and Devin played safety in that game and he just played assignment football. That game and the one against Richmond Hill were his best games.”
Helvie got the opportunity to visit Shorter University twice and participated at the university’s football combine.
“It was the first combine I had ever been to. And when I went there I was kind of nervous about the drills because I didn’t know how to do them. But I gave it my best shot and I’m guessing they kept me because of my results at the combine,” he said.
Helvie’s speed was definitely noticed by the Hawks coaching staff.
“We’re excited Devin chose to play for Shorter. He has great speed which he displayed at our Prospect Camp last summer, finishing in the top 10,” Paul Pitts, Hawks assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, said. “With his speed he could help at either wide receiver or corner. Devin also comes from a strong family and has a strong work ethic. He is typical of the coastal area players we have recruited over the past three or four years.”
“Shorter is the right fit for Devin,” Panthers coach Kirk Warner said. “They have an up and coming program and I trust coach (Phil) Jones and coach Pitts with all my guys. I know they are going to take care of them like a father figure away from home and I totally endorse their program.”
Helvie will be joining former Panther football player Roderick Jones, who had a standout season as a Hawks freshman player this past season, according to Pitts.
“He is working out twice a day and has been working out with Roderick,” his father said.
Helvie said he also lifts weights with Panther strength coach Keith McGee and his personal best is a clean lift of 110 kilograms. Helvie also will get the opportunity to run track for the Hawks, who just captured the NAIA Men’s Outdoor Track and Field national championship.
Helvie was a part of the Panthers’ successful relay team this season.
But Helvie, who plans to study sports management while playing for Shorter, said he will be taking baby steps and his first priority is mastering his techniques.
“I have to work on technique,” he said. “The competition in Germany is not like this and when I came over here it was like a slap in the face and I realized I don’t have a technique, so I have to focus on my techniques.”
“He understands and I’ve told him that the transition he had coming here from Germany to high school ball in Georgia was tough. It’s going to be twice as difficult to transition from high school football to college,” Warner added. “The speed of the game is going to be faster and he is working on things he needs to improve on, and if he keeps faith in God and his work ethics he is going to be fine. I’m just proud of him; his hard work has paid off.”
The eldest of the Helvie family children, Devin said his fondest memory as a Panther was before he even hit the field.
“The best moment as a Panther to me was when we had our very first scrimmage against Bradwell. When we came out running through the tunnel, that was something I had never experienced before,” he said.
Centhia Helvie said her son was in elementary school when he first played football. She is currently stationed at Fort Stewart with the Army’s Third Sustainment Brigade.
She said it has been a long road but this is something truly special in her son’s life.
“It is like a dream actually,” she said.
Helvie’s father, meanwhile, is preparing for the upcoming season.
“You’ve seen me on the sidelines of every Liberty County game and I plan to do the same up there,” he said.