When Lee Walls and Garrett Peek were playing football for the Troy Trojans, logistics were easy.
They would step off an airplane, and the buses would be waiting. They stepped off the bus at the team hotel. The next day they were escorted to the stadium. After the game, those waiting buses either whisked them back to the airport or carried them home.
Walls, an offensive lineman and long snapper for Troy from 1998 to 2002, chuckles at the recollection.
“You eat, you go to your room, go to your meetings and go to the game,” Walls said. “But you don’t know what goes into getting you where you are. They don’t know there’s a ton of work that goes into it.”
Walls, Peek and another former Troy student-athlete – Caitlyn Ramirez – certainly know now. The three ex-Trojans are part of the Alabama State Trooper detail assigned to Troy football.
Walls is the most senior member of the trio. He has been on the detail “on and off” for about 11 years.
“I took a couple years off when my son was playing youth games on Saturdays,” he said. “But this is my fourth or fifth season since I’ve been back on.”
Peek, who became a state trooper in 2018, is in his second season on the Troy detail. He played three years for Larry Blakeney and his last season for Neal Brown before he graduated in 2016.
Ramirez was a prominent Troy student-athlete herself on the women’s basketball team from 2014 through 2017, which included back-to-back Sun Belt Tournament titles and NCAA Tournament appearances. She is in her second year as a trooper, and this is her first with the football detail.
Walls and Peek are both assigned to the Montgomery post. Ramirez is a trooper assigned to Pike County.
The assignment is additional duty for the troopers.
“We actually have to apply for it,” Ramirez said. “You go in front of an interview panel. To know I was selected for this detail really means a lot to me.”
Typically, four state troopers are assigned to the football detail on a home gameday – two to the home side and two to the visiting side. Peek and Walls are normally assigned to the away team since they already are in Montgomery and visiting Troy opponents stay downtown either at the Renaissance or the Embassy Suites.
“We basically escort them from the airport in Montgomery, normally on Friday afternoons, and get them to the hotel,” Peek said. “On Saturdays, we get them into Troy. When Troy has away games, we travel with the team, and we’ll stay with them for the weekend.”
Walls is the visiting detail leader. For Troy home games, he coordinates with operations staff for the visiting team and their officers and escorts.
“We’ll either meet them at the airport or sometimes at the state line or outside of town to help them get to the hotel safely and on time,” he said. “The next day, we will escort the visiting team to the stadium. After the game, we get them either out of town or to the airport.”
Walls’ schedule changes for Troy’s road games. He departs a couple days before the game with Troy director of football operations Matt Hassan.
“I’ll speak with the local police in some of the towns that we’ll travel through about getting escorts and making sure that our trips are pretty seamless,” Walls said. “We don’t want any delays. The main part of our job is the safety of the team and coaches, of course, but it’s also to make sure the team and coaches are on time.
“I’ll do an operations plan, check the local hospitals and make sure we have our security for the detail at the hotel and everything squared away. We’ll talk with the people at the stadium and get our bomb sweeps handled. We’re responsible for the movements of the team more than anything. I go ahead and make sure the runway is cleared for the team when they come. I’ll sit in on some of the stuff with Matt and the hotel staff and assist them in any way we can. We’re working for the university, so we try to help them out.”
Peek added: “We’ll run a lot of errands for them and try to take a load off the operations guys because we’ve got the cars and can get where need to go pretty quickly.”
All three of them remember seeing state trooper details surrounding coaches like Bear Bryant and Pat Dye when they watched games as children. While none of them called it a reason to go into law enforcement, each remembered thinking that would be a fun job to have.
Know what? It is fun for them, but it is work, too.
“Our main assignment is to escort them to and from and be there as protection and really just a presence for the head coach,” Peek said. “It’s a fun time to do something different and not only watch football but to represent ALEA.”
As state troopers, their work shifts are different each week, Peek said.
“A lot of this we do on our off time,” he said. “A lot of times, it falls on days we’re working anyway.”
Peek said as a former student-athlete, he missed the atmosphere of a game day the most when his playing career ended.
“Getting paid to watch college football – especially at the place where you played – it doesn’t get much better than that,” Peek said when asked the most fun part of being on the detail. “I just enjoy being out there with the guys, watching the game.
“Plus, being on the sideline as a trooper is fun. Getting them to and from the game is fun. A lot of different aspects, getting to mingle with the staff and coaches, the players, we make it a good time and have a lot of fun with everybody. It’s still like we’re a part of the team.”
Walls said the college gameday environment is hard to beat.
“Just creating camaraderie with troopers from all over the country,” he said. “There’s a lot of perks. You get to meet coaches and meet these players. Being a former player, you kind of know what’s going through their head. But on the other side of it, as a former player, you get to see what goes on behind the scenes, things you didn’t know happened when you were playing.”
Being on the detail is particularly satisfying to Ramirez, who graduated four years ago and recognizes a lot of familiar faces.
“I was around the athletic trainers. I was around the strength and conditioning coaches. I was around other parts of the university staff for so long. We spent time together, we worked out and we traveled all the time. To know I’m back with them, but in a different uniform, that’s special,” she said.
She also takes pride in being assigned to work in Pike County.
“Not everybody gets the county they want,” Ramirez said. “I was fortunate enough to get the county I wanted. To be involved with Troy University, to be involved with everybody that’s helped me get to this path, it’s been great.”
The uniforms are different, but the troopers agree that teamwork is just as important today as when they were in school.
“There’s teamwork within our detail; there’s teamwork with the other police departments and universities,” Walls said. “There are so many things that go into it. If people don’t work together, man, it’s not going to go smooth.”
Walls played and graduated from Troy. His wife earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees here. His sons, Colton and Ethan, are big Troy fans.
“It’s in the blood,” Walls laughs. “They grew up at Troy. It’s in the family.”