A 12-hour drive from Fort Scott, Kan., to Baton Rouge, La., has given Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College kicker Derek Helton the opportunity of a lifetime.
Regarded as one the top junior college punter in the nation, Helton was offered a scholarship by Tigers coach Les Miles this afternoon. It was an offer, the 6-foot-1, 170-pounder couldn't refuse.
"I have been talked to them about a week," Helton said while still in the car heading back to Fort Scott.
"They really wanted me to get down there to see their place. They called coach (Jeff) Sims and asked if we could find a way for that to happen because they were 99-percent sure they were going to offer.
"Coach took the day off, and helped me make the 12-hour drive down. After staying in the hotel overnight, we met them this morning and visited the school."
And it was after the campus tour that things got really serious for the Hoyt, Kan., native that will graduate in December from Fort Scott.
"After that I visited with Les Miles," Helton said. "He was asking me how the visit went. I told him I loved it. He said 'I'm hoping after today that I would be done with recruiting a punter. Do you want to be the punter at LSU?'
"I was like 'Wow.' I took a bathroom break to collect myself. I then came back in there and he asked again if I wanted to be the punter at LSU. That's when I committed."
Helton is a great catch, according to Sims.
"He's got a great leg and great leg speed," Sims said. "He's a black belt in karate. He might not say that it has much to do with how he punts, but I think it really does. He has tremendous hang time. He can really get it up there. LSU said his hang time was something that really impressed them."
Sims said other schools – like Arkansas – had shown tremendous interest in Helton, but when LSU showed interest it was case closed.
"There are some schools that are recruiters and some schools that are selectors," Sims said.
"LSU is one of those schools. No matter how things don't work out for Derek, he now gets a chance to play in front of 95,000 fans in Death Valley and with guys that will be in the NFL some day. I know they don't have Glen Dorsey or JaMarcus Russell anymore, but it's LSU. You can count on them having four other guys like that already on the roster."