Choosing to enter a career as a law enforcement officer in the wake of the George Floyd tragedy wouldn’t appeal to most people in such divisive times. Over the better part of the last few turbulent months, Americans have been embattled in protests and witnessed acts of violence, but former Reidsville and Winston-Salem State University football player Jayron Rankin is ready to make a difference.

Despite the controversial times, Rankin said he feels like the time is right to enter a career as a protector and public servant after receiving his degree in criminology and forensics from WSSU in 2019.

“With all that is going on with the George Floyd situation, at first, I was thinking that I was coming in at a bad time, but in all honesty, I think I’m coming in at a good time — and the reason I say that is because I believe I’m going to make a positive change that people need to see. All cops are not bad. Just because there is one spoiled apple, it shouldn’t ruin it for everybody. I want people to say ‘hey, there are still some good cops out here,’” he said.

Rankin got a hero’s welcome upon his return to his home town of Reidsville on June 17 after completing training and officially being sworn in as a North Carolina State Trooper.

Extended family and neighbors were all waiting outside his childhood home as he pulled up in his NC iconic black and grey patrol car, lights and sirens blazing. Friends and family cheered as he stepped out of his cruiser and put on the iconic NCHP Stetson-style hat to greet the people that have supported him over the years.

“It was a good feeling. My family knew that my goal was to go and make it through patrol school. It was no joke. I prayed every day and talked to my parents. I had big supporters at home — my grandparents — aunts, uncles, brothers — everyone got me through it. So when I saw all of the people at my parents’ house to help celebrate, it was a big thing for me and I’m very grateful for it,” Rankin said.

He started to think about his future shortly after arriving at WSSU in 2015 as a freshman, and although Rankin didn’t know exactly the path he would take, a general direction of helping others was at the forefront of his mind.

“I’ve always been big on community service. So I thought what better way to do it than with a uniform. I didn’t know whether it was going to be in the military or law enforcement, but I want to protect freedom and make a change that people need. I want to be that positive figure in uniform where someone sees me and says ‘hey, with all of this madness going on, there are good cops out here like myself.’ I just want to try to help people and get them off the streets and that is what really motivated me to enter law enforcement.”

A journey that began on the gridiron

From the time he was a youngster, growing up in a small town tobacco and cotton mill hub, football was at the center of Rankin’s life. Jobs were tough to come by for all, but football was always his rock. Throughout the journey from the gridiron to manhood, no matter what challenge he has taken on, whether it was in the classroom, or on the football field, nothing but excellence would suffice. Most who know him agree, Rankin has always been a difference-maker, and his latest life choice as a law enforcement officer, is further evidence of commitment to making the world a better place.

Many of his mentors whole-heartedly agree.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I don’t think we’ve ever had a better leader than Jayron at Reidsville High School, and obviously that has carried over. He’s made a life-long commitment to us and that is clear to the community as well with the job that he’s taken on. It’s great for all because of the character he has and what a great example he will be for all of our state troopers,” RHS head football coach Jimmy Teague said.

In addition to being the heart of the defense, Rankin was Reidsville’s second leading rusher and he and his teammates made it to within one step of competing for a state championship in 2014.

Rankin went on to start as an outside linebacker as a true freshman at Winston-Salem State and eventually moved to inside linebacker, a positon he occupied for the remainder of his college playing career.

Now, knowing his playing days are over, Rankin tends to take it in stride.

“It was a good run and I don’t have any regrets. I left it all on the field. I know life moves on and football doesn’t last forever and I just decided to concentrate on education. Now, I’m on to bigger and better things. I want to help my community.”

Contact Jim Sands at 336-314-1058 or on Twitter @jimsandsRCN.

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