Ole Miss sophomore Safety George Helow didn't have a lot of options coming out of high school in Jacksonville, FL, because he fell off the recruiting radar after breaking his arm his senior season just three games into the campaign.
But the walkon special teams standout has made his mark on the Rebel squad.
"When you come into a big program like Ole Miss as a walkon, you have to set goals and the number one goal is figuring out how you can make the team and then how you can actually get on the field," said Helow.
The process, the journey, for Helow has been interesting, to say the least.
"Out of high school, I was just trying to hook up with a Mississippi junior college, but they have limits on the number of out-of-state players they can have on their squad," he explained. "I didn't know what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted to play college football."
A stroke of luck came George's way.
"Brian VanGorder was hired as the linebackers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars and he moved in next to my family," Helow said. "He told me about Hargrave. When he was at Georgia, he used to recruit there."
George put a highlight tape together from his junior year in high school and sent it to Hargrave Coach Robert Prunty.
"He told me he had one more spot and I went there," said Helow. "I was up there with John Jerry and Jerrell Powe.
"There are a lot of great players at Hargrave every year and it makes you step your game up."
Helow, a lifelong Florida Gator fan, roomed next door to Jerry. Baby J sold Helow on Ole Miss.
"I was a Gator fan, man, but my sister Maggie went to Ole Miss and between her and John and Jerrell, I got interested," George stated. "I used to watch games with John and Jerrell in Coach Prunty's office.
"I don't think there's anyone on the planet who loves Ole Miss more than Jerrell, and John too, for that matter. Once you meet Powe, he's infectious."
Helow called then Rebel Coach Tony Hughes, who invited George to walkon at Ole Miss.
"I decided to give it a shot, even though I knew the life of a walkon isn't an easy path," said George. "It's like everything - you have to keep your head up and have a plan. Then you have to see the plan through.
"Scout team was my fate for my first year and a half, but I made the most of it. I came to practice every day with the idea of giving the offense hell. If you love the game, it's fun because you get to go against an SEC offense every day in practice."
When the new coaches came in, Helow - every player for that matter - got a new lease on their football lives. A clean slate.
"My goal was to get on the field. You do that by selling out - giving up your body," he noted. "I guess I made an impression on the coaches. People respect you if they see you are putting everything you have into something."
In 2008, with the special teams being the most improved aspect of the 8-4 Rebel team, Helow played every snap on kickoff coverage, every snap on punt return/block and most of the snaps on kickoff return, alternating with LB Allen Walker.
Helow made some big plays on special teams and was also the brunt of a big hit or two.
"At LSU, I got smoked," he laughed. "I just started laughing on the sidelines and Coach (Chris) Vaughn told me that sometimes you have to take a shot for the team. He's right. That's part of the game.
"Splitting the wedge, to me, is a lot of fun. I loved hitting the wedge against Florida in The Swamp because the last time I was there I was cheering until I was hoarse for the Gators. There was a lot of satisfaction in winning that game and making a couple of big hits in that game."
Helow worked himself into a contributing, respected player on the squad, but he's only a sophomore and he wants more in the future.
"I talked to Coach Prunty the other day and he said something funny, but true. He said Ole Miss was feeding me a banana now, but if I kept working I would eventually get some banana pudding," Helow smiled. "He's right. Special teams are good, but I want to get on the field on defense too eventually.
"Coach (Tyrone) Nix has talked to me about some ideas with the blitz game where he could use me and I am pumped up about that. I told him I'd do whatever I could to help the team."
George says he's having the time of his life right now and he can't wait for the next workout, next practice, next game, next spring and next season.
"The attitude around here right now is great. We are pumped about everything we do and we are excited about doing everything better every time we get together to work," he said. "We are all working extremely hard."
George also has another incentive - he's a role model in his family.
"I'm the second-oldest of 10 kids and the oldest son in my family. I have five younger brothers and they all look up to me," he said. "Everything I do, they want to do. I can't let them down.
"They watch everything I do and like watching me play on TV. I want to show them that if they have a dream, it can come true."
Helow is living his dream right now on special teams at Ole Miss, but that's just part one of his vision for his career.
"Like I said, anything I can do to help the team, I will do, but I want more," he closed. "My dream just gets bigger and bigger, and why not?"
George Helow -
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