To protect and to serve

Adam Stafford grew up in Shelbyville. Went to school at Shelbyville High School. Nearly dropped out midway through his senior year.

The choice to finish high school and become the first in his family to do so altered his life forever. Now a veteran officer of the Shelbyville police department, Stafford spends countless hours devoting time to making his community better – some days just one kid at a time.

Football is his passion and with a son still growing and getting stronger, he revels in coaching a sport he never excelled at.

“I love football. I would coach football full time if I could,” said Stafford, who admitted to never being more than a junior varsity level player for the Golden Bears.

Football gave him purpose, though. Enough so to follow all the program’s rules for four years. And when his playing career was over, he was ready to walk away from his educational track. That’s when longtime Shelbyville High School football coach Pat Parks chastised him for even considering quitting. He had done enough to graduate, he just needed to cross the finish line.

Stafford did so in 2002 and enlisted in the Army reserves. After his military commitment ended, he returned home and found factory jobs he didn’t like, but it kept him occupied until something better came along.

Ironically, Stafford found a career at the one place he avoided by finishing high school and joining the Army – the Shelby County Jail.

“I worked at the jail for four years before I was hired on by the county as a sheriff deputy,” he said. Four days later he and another just-hired deputy were let go with no explanation. Stafford was out of work with a wife and newborn son to care for and unsure what came next.

“I went from there to Knauf ... a great company that really took care of me and helped me get my life back on track because I went from being on top of the mountain, I had reached my goal in life and can’t believe I’m here, to just having a baby, no life insurance or money and was about to be evicted. Working there picked me up and got me back to where I needed to be in life mentally, emotionally and physically.”

One year later, Knauf officially laid him off on what turned out to be his first day with the Shelbyville police department. Now he is a Field Training Officer (FTO) for the department, preparing new hires for their role in his community.

“When I had my first interview (for the department), I said in five years I want to be an FTO,” said Stafford. “I want to help people. By helping these policemen, I can make a bigger impact on the community. I can leave my touch on them. They see how I can handle myself, how I handle my business.”

Now with a 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, Stafford is highly visible in the community around their activities.

“I’m really lucky because ... our police department wants us going to our kids’ games,” he said. “They want us to be out in the community, to be out watching the softball games, to be out at the baseball fields, they want people to see you as a person. I’m able to work and go to their games. And if something happens and I have to leave, the kids understand that. I try really hard to be there for them and my job is a big supporter of me doing those kinds of things.”

In his son, Anthony, he has a physically-gifted football player who already stands almost five feet, six inches tall and understands hard work is the way to achieve his dream of playing football at the University of Notre Dame. But it’s not his own prodigy that makes the team Stafford coaches so special.

“My fifth-grade team I’m coaching, I wouldn’t trade this team for any team I’ve ever had in any sport I’ve ever coached,” he said. “The parents are awesome ... they’re on board. The bring me the mid-terms, they bring me the report cards and we talk about the grades. They call me if there are problems with the kids at home. We all work together. We’re like a big family.

“And the kids look out for each other at practice. I don’t have to say a word and I look over and all of our helmets are lined up on the sideline facing the same direction looking nice because that’s what they’ve done.”

Because he was not a superior athlete in high school, Stafford can relate to kids that struggle on the field. That means they get every chance to make an impression – just as Stafford did as a Golden Bear.

“I was terrible,” he reiterated. “My sophomore year I played offensive line – I was a 115-pound