July 15, 2011 9:58:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- You might have noticed a familiar face in an unfamiliar uniform around Starkville.
Mississippi State senior lineman Quentin Saulsberry has spent the past month and a half interning at the Starkville Police Department. In that time he has been the most popular person to step out of a squad car.
He recalls assisting officers while they served a search warrant in the community and one of the onlookers shouted, ''Hey, Saulsberry.''
"I''m looking around like, ''Oh man, I can''t do my internship without people stopping and talking to me,'' " Saulsberry said. "But it''s fun. It''s something new."
Teammates joke with Saulsberry and call him "officer" when he shows up to team facilities in his SPD polo shirt and black pants. Though the ribbing is good-natured, Saulsberry is taking his internship seriously.
"We seen one of our teammates, he had a tag expired, and I said, ''Hey man, you need to get that fixed,'' " he said.
Saulsberry, who is majoring in sociology, is set to graduate in December. He hasn''t always known he would pursue a career in law enforcement, but like most undergraduates nearing graduation he has started planning for the future.
The fact he''s a starting lineman in the Southeastern Conference hasn''t clouded reality; the next level isn''t promised.
"There''s got to be life after football," Saulsberry said.
After morning workouts with teammates and MSU strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis, Saulsberry logs seven to eight hours a day at SPD.
He started in the standard field training program that officers go through, and spent the first four weeks of the internship learning the ins and outs of investigations, narcotics, dispatch, and the department rules and regulations.
Since July, Saulsberry has gotten a first-hand look at what it''s like to respond to domestic violence calls and to serve warrants.
"It''s interesting," he said. "It''s something new every day. You go in, you serve warrants, and sometimes you see the circumstances people live in, the elements they live in and the houses -- sometimes you feel like you''re blessed. You really don''t know until you see what''s deep in the community."
For Saulsberry to be allowed to exit a police vehicle during potentially volatile moments is a sign he has gained officers'' trust, SPD Captain Chris Thomas said.
"It''s like any other rookie," Thomas said. "He''s learned all of our rules and regulations, and the officers he''s rode with said he''s done a great job. He''s got a good mixture of it all."
Saulsberry, a fifth-year senior, is one of MSU''s most experienced and respected players. As a leader, he understands the importance of his image as teammate and representative of MSU. Making bad decisions doesn''t fit the equation of the role he plays, but discipline doesn''t always transcend into the community.
Dealing with repeat offenders is a sobering moment, Saulsberry said.
"Coach Balis, coach (Dan) Mullen always talk about the choices we make in life," Saulsberry said. "You see people making those bad decisions, and nine times out of 10 those people you see each day are repeat offenders. They''re always on the board, always in the books, always in the station, and they play like they''re the victim."
Saulsberry''s ultimate goal is to work in federal law enforcement. He has gained contacts and knowledge in the short time he has been with the SPD, and he hopes that information will be useful when he graduates.
Thomas, who has served with the SPD since 1989, estimates the department has had only "four or five interns" in recent memory. With a lower-than-ideal squad size, there isn''t enough manpower to keep up with interns, he said.
Still, Saulsberry will benefit from earning his degree and participating in the internship.
"Going for your secondary degree is important, but getting that bachelor''s out of the way is really important," Thomas said. "Knowing people, which is what he has been able to do here, really helps. You see a lot of fed people start out at the local level, so he''s on the right track. I wish we could have more interns like Quentin."
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