On July 7, 2016, tragedy struck when a shooter ambushed in Dallas, killing five police officers and injuring nine others. On the scene that night was Kevin Whitworth, a 1989 graduate of Marshall High School and a current Dallas police officer.

“I was there that night and I knew every one of them,” Whitworth says of the fallen colleagues. “That was a tough night for sure.”

As tough and tragic as that night was, Whitworth says the job of being a police officer is more than rewarding.

“I think when a citizen accommodates you for helping them out or when there’s a really bad person and you work a case on him and put him in jail for doing wrong to people and the citizens will thank you for it, that’s it,” he said. “That’s rewarding.”

Whitworth, who played linebacker and nose guard for the Mavericks his senior year, said there are similarities between football and working as a police officer.

“It’s team work,” he said. “Being a police officer and playing sports, it’s all about teamwork. Not one person stands out. One individual can’t just do everything on their own. It’s a team effort to get the goal accomplished. That’s one of the biggest things I learned. The coaches back then instilled discipline and a hard work ethic into it. People can be a police officer but it’s something extra when you go above and beyond what a normal officer would do as far as case work or whatever.”

Whitworth was part of the 1988 team that fell to Dallas Carter in 22-18 with less than two minutes remaining in the quarterfinals. Dallas Carter was later forced to forfeit the win.

“All my friends,” Whitworth said when asked about what he remembers most from Marshall. “I was there a short period. I went there my second semester of my junior year so I didn’t get a chance to grow up with everybody but just the friends that I made, it was rewarding being around all the coaches and the friends. It was a lot bigger school than what I was used to but everybody took me in like I was one of their own. That’s probably what I remember the most.

“Discipline,” he continued. “Good coaches helped mold me and made me a better person.”

After high school, Whitworth attended University of Arkansas at Monticello on a football scholarship.

“I went to school four years but I had to redshirt so I graduated and ended up not playing my last year,” Whitworth explained. “I played football and baseball but injuries kind of prevented me from playing my last year so I just went ahead and graduated.”

While there, he majored in business management.

“I ended up getting married up in Oklahoma and I worked in the business field,” he said. “I opened up stores for a retail shoe company and then they moved me to Dallas. My ex-wife introduced me to a Dallas police officer who had a lot more fun doing what he was doing than I was having doing what I was doing. So I signed up and got on in 2000 and I’ve been here almost 20 years.”

When asked what his reaction would have been had someone told him that while he was in college that he’d one day become a police officer, Whitworth said, “I wouldn’t have been dissatisfied. It’s a good field. It was a small school so as far as the degrees you got, you didn’t have as many options at Arkansas-Monticello as you would at the University of Arkansas. I got what I could out of college but I was happy to get onto the police force here in Dallas.”

As much as the tragedy of that 2016 night stands out to him, Whitworth has several fond memories from serving on the police force in the nearly two-decades that have passed.

“First getting accepted, getting that call knowing I was going to be in the academy and then graduating when I actually got my badge, being donned by the same buddy I met who told me all about it,” he said. “He’s kind of my role model as a police officer. He’s the one who told me about what he’s doing and I was like, ‘Man, I want to do what you do.’ The day I graduated and got my badge, being donned, that was a very rewarding day.

“The awards don’t mean much but when a citizen or another police officer gives you something for your work ethic or something, those are the days that stand out.”

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment of an occasional series. Please send topic suggestions to nhague@marshallnewsmessenger.com