By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
One of the questions I’ve been asked repeatedly this week is whether this will finally be the time that Jim Helms comes back to his alma mater, dons the purple and gold one last time and returns San Benito High School football to prominence. And with the departure of Spencer Gantt, who I have come to appreciate and acknowledge as a passionate devotee of the sport, hiring Helms is now a very real possibility… yet again.
Much like the manner in which the Dallas Cowboys have in recent years found new and heartbreaking ways to lose football games, the San Benito school district has fumbled opportunity after opportunity to offer Helms the SBHS athletic director/head football coach position. Perhaps the most notable of such occurrences was in 2009, when the board selected Gantt to lead the ’Hounds. Granted, I wasn’t necessarily against Gantt’s selection; in fact, I welcomed the move and felt that the program needed a shot in the arm (maybe that’s not the best way to put it…). If you’ll recall, I even stressed that the community afford Gantt a chance to prove himself. Still, I’d be lying, and so would many San Benitians, if I said I wasn’t disappointed that Helms didn’t get the nod. The feeling, I hear, is mutual.
It’s no secret that Helms has wanted the San Benito job for years—more like decades. Consider that he was a two-time All-State running back for the ’Hounds during the team’s heyday in the early 1960s. There may be no other name in Greyhound football lore as celebrated as Jim Helms.
On the sidelines, Helms proved to be equally talented. After playing for the Texas Longhorns and earning a college degree, Helms served as the running backs and defensive backs coach for the Longhorns in 1968. From 1973-75, he coached tight ends and the offensive line at Oklahoma University before being named the head coach at Cameron University in 1976.
Oh yeah, and let’s not forget that Helms was part of four national championship squads during the UT and Oklahoma stints. But I digress.
In 1979, Helms again coached running backs at Oklahoma State University, Southern Methodist University (1981) and at Texas A&M University (1982-1990). It was in 1991 that Helms became the assistant head coach at Mississippi State University.
There were stints elsewhere, but who can forget the subsequent work Helms did with the Harlingen South and Brownsville Porter football programs, bringing the latter back from a lowly 1-9 record to 9-2 in 2003 and earning a bi-district championship to boot. Not bad when considering that Porter hadn’t ever won more than three games in a single season.
Okay, so maybe the fellow is not in his 30s or 40s, but I’d be willing to bet he’s in better health than most coaches today, and far more demanding.
Before I go any further, understand that this is by no means an attempt to pressure district officials or board members into making a decision. I’ve heard of other possible candidates, and a number of them sound quite promising. I’m only asking that Helms is not overlooked as he has been in the past.
I’ll end with an interesting conversation I had with a friend of mine on Thursday. He had a great idea to hire Helms in an effort to revitalize the Greyhound football program and groom an offensive or defensive coordinator to serve under him, maybe another SBHS grad who has the talent, experience and knowhow to take over the head football coaching duties.
It’s a win-win situation that I find rather appealing, but it’s also election season, and I know that everything is politicized during such a time. So I won’t hold my breath.
Besides, no one’s really sure if Helms is willing anymore, and his days as a Greyhound may, as a result, remain in the past. But wow… what a past it was.