Local football player earns opportunity to take game to NCAA

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published May 14, 2014

Up until his junior year at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, if you would have asked Israel Helms, whose hometown is Southfield, about his prospects for making it to the NCAA as a football player, he might have told you he didn’t think he had much of a shot.

Helms was home-schooled as a child, and as a result, he said he was a year younger than his peers, which put him at a disadvantage on the football field. And while he may have considered himself a solid football player, Helms, who is an offensive lineman, didn’t consider himself to be a “star” on the squad.

But as a junior at St. Mary’s, after talking to some college coaches who came to visit the school, Helms said he began to think college football might be a possibility for him.

What might have seemed like a long shot during his early high school playing days turned into a genuine opportunity, as Helms, who is currently a senior, signed on to play with Wayne State University — which competes at the NCAA Division II level — last winter.

“I’m excited,” said Helms, 16. “I’m blessed and thankful. I’m glad that it’s turning into a reality and not a dream. Everybody dreams about it, but very few people get to actually go through with it.”

Helms’ story can be inspiring for young athletes.

“The phrase ‘hard work beats talent,’” Helms said of a lesson that can be learned from his story. “If you keep working on something, do it 1,000 times, you get better and better at it. I wasn’t the most talented, but I worked hard at what coaches told me and applied that over and over again. The coaches liked me. Good grades, too. That was another thing the coaches liked about me.”

Helms said he intends to major in biomedical engineering at Wayne State. He has also not ruled out the possibility of eventually enrolling in medical or law school.

Helms said he is “kind of following my dad’s footsteps,” as aside from being a walk-on football player at Ohio State University, his father majored in mechanical engineering. Helms also acknowledged the support he has received from his mother, as well as from coaches he has had over the years.

While he may be looking forward to being an NCAA football player, the thought of being a college student may excite Helms even more.

“I can’t wait,” said Helms, who said he has been “blessed” by a lack of injuries. “Can’t wait to study the field that I’m interested in. I’ve always really liked college. My mom had me on internships in middle school, so I got to walk on college campuses and see what it’s like.”

Helms said he has a 3.7 grade point average.