HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — Deputy TJ Pickens accepted a different call of duty when his principal at Sale Creek said he needed a golf coach to keep the program alive.
That was six years ago. Pickens continues his service by leading the girls teams to district, region and state tournaments, while keeping Sale Creek safe.
“The kids especially a few of them on the course, they’d be like ‘Officer Pickens, I mean, Coach Pickens, I mean…'” Pickens said. “But it’s neat, you just get to interact with them a different way.”
Deputy Pickens is not just the SRO for Sale Creek’s 6th through 12th grades. After school dismisses, he heads to the golf course where he leads the successful Panther team.
“I don’t think you can have your plate too full when it comes to kids in that school,” Pickens said. “The more you get to know these kids, the safer they are because the more comfortable they care to come and talk to you and tell you things.”
Students tell him more than just which holes they birdied that day.
“I feel a lot more safe when he’s around,” eighth grader Carly Wetherill said.
“It’s easier to talk to him about things because we’ve grown up close to him,” senior Maddie Harris said.
“I think without me being on the golf team, I would have never had a relationship with him. He just would have been another person in the school,” sophomore Denver Clendenen said.
The rest of Sale Creek agrees.
“Oh, they love him. He’s just a big teddy bear really,” Clendenen said.
“I look at all of my kids at Sale Creek as my kids. Hey, don’t mess with my… These are my kids. And just when you coach something and you’re with them that much more and that longer you develop a relationship with them,” Pickens said.
Pickens inspires, encourages and protects those around him.
“Nowadays, everyone’s scared to be in school. With him, growing a connection to all the students and coaching, it’s a lot more helpful for us so that we know that we’re safe instead of being scared all the time,” Harris said.
This fall, Pickens will help coach the high school girls team and continue to make lasting relationships with his students.