Friday, March 19, 2004


Warriors lose
coach Helton

The 26-year-old joins his brother
at Memphis, with UH head coach
June Jones’ blessing

Hawaii football special-teams coach Tyson Helton plans to leave for a similar position at Memphis.

"There are still some loose ends and it hasn't been officially announced, but it looks like it's a good opportunity for me and the family," Helton said. "I'm feeling pretty good about it, but it is bittersweet. Leaving Coach (June Jones) is a tough deal, but he made it easy. He told me it's a good opportunity that I couldn't pass up."

Helton will likely coach special teams and tight ends for the Tigers.

"Good for him," Jones said. "He did a great job for us, but he's getting a big pay raise and it's a good situation for him."

Helton joins his brother, Clay, on the Memphis staff. Clay Helton has coached the running backs and wide receivers at Memphis, and was recently promoted to assistant head coach by Tigers head coach Tommy West.

Memphis, of Conference USA, went 9-4 last year, including a 27-17 victory over North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl.

Helton, 26, has been a full-fledged assistant at Hawaii the past three seasons. His association with UH began as a graduate assistant in 2000. At various times he has assisted with quarterbacks and the offensive line in addition to special teams.

In his first season coordinating the special teams, UH led the nation in kickoff-return yardage and broke the NCAA record for yards per return (30.3).

"We've had some great special-teams players," he said. "Names that come to mind are Chad Owens, David Gilmore, T.J. Moe, and there are many others."

Helton said he will go to Memphis a week from today to observe the Tigers' final week of spring practice, then return to Hawaii before moving to Tennessee with his wife, April, and 1-year-old daughter, Shelby.

Helton said he will miss the UH staff and players.

"This has been an unbelievable experience, a real blessing. I've learned more here than anywhere I've ever been," he said. "I've learned more from the players than I've taught them, about family and commitment and faith in yourself and each other. That's how the local mentality is, and it is something I will miss."

Helton played quarterback and earned a business degree at the University of Houston before joining the UH staff. He grew up around college and pro football; his father, Kim, has been an NFL and college coach since 1972.

A replacement for Helton might not be hired immediately, since the other UH assistant coaches already share special-teams duties. Also, the Warriors do not emphasize the kicking game during spring practice, which begins April 6 and concludes May 1.

"I've talked with three people already, but we probably won't do anything until the fall," Jones said.

Helton is the fourth assistant coach to move on in Jones' five years as head coach. The others are defensive coordinators Greg McMackin and Kevin Lempa and special-teams coach Dennis McKnight.


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