Keyshawn Helton is a ‘Yes, sir. No, sir’ kind of kid. A diminutive 5-foot-9 and 171 pounds, the lightly recruited Pensacola native is a fierce competitor who draws upon an inspiring work ethic and burning passion to have become a collegiate playmaker. What’s more, Helton is the kind of kid who leaves you feeling a little bit more hopeful about the future of Florida State football and the world we share.
Helton was born into the Garnet and Gold. His mother, Petrina, attended FSU and earned her degree in Psychology. Her brother, Keyshawn’s uncle, also attended FSU. You may remember him: Derrick Brooks, a member of the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Yes, sir, my mother’s brother,” Keyshawn says with understandable pride.
It was a foregone conclusion Helton would sign a scholarship with FSU. The question was, would FSU offer?
Keyshawn says his uncle never interfered. “Oh, no sir. The only thing he really told me in the recruiting process is to go where it fits me the best and to follow my heart. My story is different. I had seven or eight offers, none of which was Power 5.”
Florida State was the only Power 5 program to offer him a scholarship.
“My family cried,” he said. “There was a feeling of excitement because they knew there were no other schools for me. This is the only school I wanted. It is the school for me.”
Uncle Derrick heard about the offer on social media and called.
“He congratulated me and told me it would be a process and to go in with my head down and work,” said Helton, who has become a versatile and dependable playmaker.
“I don’t think there are words that could (express) what this scholarship means to me,” Helton said. “To the people who have funded my scholarship, ‘Thank you’ isn’t enough. There are no words I can say that would express how grateful or how thankful I am. Words would not express what this scholarship means to me.”
Helton is reminded daily that he is a legacy, the next generation in his family to attend FSU.
“It has been a dream ever since I was young … to walk on the same campus, the same buildings I know my family has walked,” Helton said. “I share that tradition; being a Nole is all I have known. It’s a blessing.”
While Helton can’t find enough words to express his gratitude, he has found actions, which those donors enjoy as much as words. Helton has 30 receptions for 420 yards and five touchdowns, including one in the season opener against Georgia Tech.
His actions off the field are also a reflection of his appreciation.
“I’m here to get my education No. 1 and impact lives outside of football,” the sports management major said. “Academics is important to me because knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have, the more power you have and that’s what’s important to me. The more I know the more I can impact others.”
Helton hopes to transfer his passion for the game into a career in coaching after his playing days are in the rear view mirror.
“I’m really passionate about empowering others and helping others,” he said. “Football helped me develop my thing and I want to continue to help others through coaching or whatever that may be. I’m passionate about helping younger athletes, sharing my knowledge among them, showing them the things that I know to help elevate their game, not for me, but for them. I just like to see the smile on their faces afterwards. You know, I tell them something and they go and they do and it works for them.”
Helton’s likes the sticky part of football best. “The relationships that are made within the game, teammates, coaches, and everyone involved is my favorite thing about football,” Helton said.
He also loves the challenge. “My passion, my drive to be one of the best to ever play the game,” he said. “I have a burning passion deep inside. That is what I love about football. I love to compete and I hate to lose. Football is a contact sport, a competitive sport. Whenever I take the field I wanted to win those one-on-one matchups every second of the game.”
That passion and work ethic has helped drive him through a challenging and painful offseason knee rehabilitation.
“When I got hurt, I didn’t need motivation from everyone else, even though I got it,” Helton said. “I didn’t need it because it was already instilled in me.”
While he possessed the self-motivation and the work ethic to get through the rehab, Helton said he couldn’t have done it without FSU’s four athletics trainers.
“All four athletic trainers – Jake Pfeil, Josh Chatman, Jerry Latimer, Alora Sullivan – helped me along the way mentally, emotionally and physically,” Helton said. “My drive and my work ethic allow me to do it but mentally I really struggled. That’s where they helped me a lot. They pushed me in the weight room.”
Helton is excited about his future. Coach Mike Norvell is too.
“The work that he put in in the offseason has prepared him to be able to go out there,” Norvell said. “If that’s not full speed then I’m excited about what we’re going to see because he’s moving really well, changing direction. That goes to the work that you put in even in rehab. He’s got a great mindset, a great approach. I’m expecting big things from him this year.”