Clay Helton’s past inspires his football acumen

first_imgFaith. Family. Football.That is the motto of USC’s team, promoted strongly by their leader, head coach Clay Helton. Helton assumed the head-coaching role two days after the Trojans’ convincing 40-21 win over UCLA on Nov. 28.The motto has since been embraced by the team and is emblazoned on black hoodies that can frequently be seen around campus.Helton said in an interview with the Daily Trojan that selling kids on the team’s motto is one of his biggest recruiting tools.The words that Helton now lives by were taught to him by the same man who gave him his start as a coach: his father, Kim Helton.“My dad taught me there’s not a lot of time out there to be able to do other things, so concern yourself with three things: Faith, family and football, and that’s what I believe in,” Helton said.His coaching career began immediately following graduation. Helton spent two years at Duke, one as a graduate assistant and one as the running backs coach in 1996 but then moved to his alma mater and the school his father coached at — University of Houston, where he was the running backs coach for three seasons.“It’s not too many times you get to work for your best friend in life and your hero and that’s what my dad is to me,” Helton said. “I’ve learned so many lessons from him, not only as a young guy, but as a coach, and now as a guy that’s 43 years old.”FaithReligion is a big part of the football culture at USC, and it can be witnessed every time the team runs out of the Coliseum on Saturday. They all head for the end zone where many players take a knee and take a moment to pray.Religion is in the locker room, on the field and in tattoos.“We believe that no matter what religion you believe in, if you want to practice your faith, practice your faith and we support you,” Helton said.FamilyThe two-faced second moniker holds especially true for Helton, whose coaching career has been so intricately tied to his family. Getting a start from his father gave Helton the opportunity to develop not just his knowledge of Xs and Os, but develop his character as well.“He’s taught me how to be a husband, a father, a football coach and a leader of men,” Helton said of his father. “I’m very blessed to have a guy that isn’t only my best friend but also happens to be a really good football coach too.”Helton said he still talks to his dad two or three times a week.Helton’s parents live in Florida acting as caretakers for his grandmother, who is in her 90s. They take an annual trip to visit their son’s colleges though, and now that Helton has hired on his brother, Tyson Helton, as quarterbacks and passing game coordinator, Helton is hoping that his parents will be able to spend more time in California.Tyson Helton also played for his father at Houston before becoming the special teams coach at Hawaii. Most recently, he was the offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky.“I’ve always known how talented a coach he is, but now to see it up close and personal is great,” Helton said. “To bring that dynamic to your football team, not only a guy that you love, but also an ultra-talented coach it makes you very proud as a head coach. I’m mad that he has more hair than me, and he’s a lot skinnier than me.”Helton has been able to surround himself with those he loves, no one more than his high school sweetheart, Angela Helton. Helton and his wife have quite the love story.Though Helton says he no longer looks the part, he was once the quarterback at Clements High in Sugar Land, Texas. Angela Helton was a member of the dance team that performed at the games.“I’ve been in love since I was 15, she figured it out at 17, and we’ve been in love ever since,” Helton said.Going into their 21st year of marriage, the Heltons have three kids of their own, including high school senior, Reid Helton, who is looking at USC as a possible college for next year.FootballAs spring football begins, Helton has his hands full implementing new concepts as well as incorporating freshman onto the team in what he expects to be a competition-filled spring season.“The beauty of spring ball is competition, and that’s where you establish yourself,” Helton said.  “Over the past six years, we’ve had 15 freshman All-Americans, so here it’s about stepping on that practice field and competing. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or a senior.”Spring isn’t just about football though. Helton said the program tries to get the players together as much as possible to promote the family-to-football tie.“We believe in the family aspect of things and the brotherhood, and to have that you’ve got to be together,” Helton said.Helton cited bowling and movies as two team favorites as well as Friday night dinners at local restaurants on road games during the season.In his first full season as head coach, Helton has a lot to juggle between deciding starting lineups, preparing for a full schedule of tough opponents and keeping off-the-field drama to a minimum. For him though, it’s much simpler than that when you are able to focus on the things that matter most: Faith. Family. Football.last_img

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