When the Orange County Lawmen took to Max Goldsmith Stadium over the weekend to face off against the Dallas Defenders, the vast majority of the team was setting foot on the field for the first time. But there was one player who knew the field well.
Orange County’s Sean Wilkinson grew up in Lewisville, spending all 12 years in the LHS feeder system. He played football through high school as one of the Fighting Farmers.
“I just like the aggression, the physical aspect of it,” he said. “But also the camaraderie and teamwork. That’s one thing they all say, one player can’t make a team. You’ve got other sports like basketball where other players, sometimes, if they’re good enough, can kind of hold the team up, but you can’t do that in football.”
The game did not go well for the Lawmen. A nightmare first quarter saw them throw two interceptions and give up two touchdowns and two field goals. Though Wilkinson said they eventually pulled to within five points, they eventually lost 34-22.
But For Wilkinson, the experience was a surreal one.
“It’s like going back in time,” he said. “I remember having football practices there in 105 degree weather, so that definitely doesn’t happen out in California.”
Though the game meant a tight itinerary, he took time to drive around Lewisville and see how the city had grown.
“They built up a lot. I was still just a kid, I was only 18 when I left,” he said. “Next to my parents’ house there used to be a huge open field that’s now a whole other area with maybe 20 or 30 homes built in there.”
Wilkinson said he played center for the Farmers, mostly because he was the only one who could hike the ball consistently. He said he was 20 to 30 pounds lighter than the players around him, putting him at a disadvantage.
After graduating in 2004, Wilkinson said he sure what he wanted to do, but was discouraged by seeing his college friends have to start over when they changed degrees. He joined the Marines, and from there, the military police. He’s stuck with law enforcement ever since.
“We’re there to help people. I know some people don’t view it that way, but we kind of come in and de-escalate situations,” he said. “Unfortunately sometimes it doesn’t turn out that way, but that’s the goal each time.”
After finishing up with the Marines, Wilkinson returned to Orange County and, after a couple of years of school, joined the sheriff’s department. He currently polices Dana Point, which does not have its own police department and contracts for police services with the sheriff’s office, similar to the way Castle Hills contracts with Lewisville PD.
Throughout the process, Wilkinson kept playing football. He was on the unit team in Miramar — he remembered being frustrated, practicing for three months with the team only to be deployed to Iraq before the season began. Since joining the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, he’s played for the Lawmen for five years.
Wilkinson said passion for the game is the driving factor in what’s kept him with it.
“You’re not getting paid to play. You’re not in high school, where you could potentially get recruited to go to college to play,” he said. “One big difference I would say is everybody who’s out there playing now loves the game. They’re out there because they enjoy playing.”
The National Public Safety Football League plays a series of charity games every year from February into June. Last weekend’s game was for the Assist the Officer Foundation, a Dallas-based charity that assists officers and their families in times of need. They can be found at atodallas.org.