Baylor's David Helton wrapping up sterling Duke career

Baylor's David Helton wrapping up sterling Duke career

December 24th, 2014 by Ward Gossett in Sports - College

Duke linebacker David Helton carries the American flag as the Blue Devils come onto the field before their home game against Virginia. The Baylor graduate ends his award-winning college career Saturday.

Over the past month David Helton has become an expert on air travel, logging trips to Orlando, Charlotte, New York and California.

The baggage tickets likely will end up in a scrapbook or as part of a framed memento. They represent a whirlwind of awards programs for one of Duke University's most celebrated football players.

The ultimate award presented to the former Baylor School standout is the William V. Campbell Trophy, also known as the academic Heisman, which is presented annually to the nation's top combination of student, football player and community servant. Helton was proclaimed the 25th recipient of the award on Dec. 9 at the 57th National Football Foundation annual awards dinner in New York.

"David Helton's exceptional accomplishments rank him among the best student-athletes in the history of our sport, making him the ideal Campbell Trophy recipient," NFF president Steven J. Hatchell said in the announcement release. "He truly embodies the NFF's mission of building leaders through football, and we look forward to watching the future unfold for this incredible young man."

The son of Dr. Keith and Mary Helton, the former Best of Preps pick by the Times Free Press earned a $25,000 postgraduate scholarship.

"That whole experience was definitely unbelievable," the senior linebacke said. "It's more than the award itself -- the trip to New York, staying at the Waldorf-Astoria. I met some unbelievable people. Most of them were great football players, but they also are high up in their respective industries."

Among those he met in addition to fellow Campbell Trophy nominees were Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, former Cowboys great Roger Staubach and LaDainian Tomlinson, the ex-TCU running back who starred in the NFL for the San Diego Chargers.

"I didn't keep a journal or anything like that, but I met a lot of really great people that I hope to stay in contact with," said the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder who also was a finalist for the Lott IMPACT trophy.

Helton twice led the Atlantic Coast Conference in tackles and this year was a first-team All-ACC pick.

He left Monday morning with his Blue Devils teammates for El Paso and the Hyundai Sun Bowl game to be played Saturday. Duke (9-3) will face 15th-ranked Arizona State.

A team goal is to become the first Duke squad to win a bowl game in 54 years (the last time was 7-6 over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl).

Duke's seniors set school records with back-to-back nine-win seasons and by becoming the first group to play in three straight postseason games. (The Devils played Cincinnati in the 2012 Belk Bowl and lost and Texas A&M in the 2013 Chick-fil-A bowl, succumbing to a furious fourth-quarter Aggies rally.)

"It's been a great ride. You go in thinking week by week, and before you know it it's over," Helton said. "As we reflect we're very proud -- the back-to-back nine-win seasons -- and we'll have a lot more to be proud of if we win this game."

The next chapter awaits, but before he looks at NFL possibilities, he wants to finish the three classes he needs for graduation and possibly take time to reflect.

"I have looked back at certain aspects, but I don't think it will sink in until this last game's over," he said. "I'm coming back to school next semester, but I won't be with a team anymore. It is definitely tough to think about.

"There are always things you strive for, but when I look back on the whole Duke football experience, I have no regrets. There are learning processes, and I think we learned a great deal from trials over the past two years. I think we have come a long way because of those trials.

"One of the coolest things to think about is what we've accomplished the last couple of years and the fact that we laid the foundation for what's to come in Duke football."

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.