HUNTSVILLE, WALKER COUNTY Senior criminal justice major Ethan Martinez has had his share of “firsts” at Sam Houston State University.
As a junior, Martinez was the first American student to study at a Chinese Police Academy. Then another “first” came this summer, when he was selected to serve in a security internship for the Houston Texans, an opportunity which was secured and monitored by field visits through the College of Criminal Justice Internship Office.
Martinez was with the Texans during training camp, escorting players on and off the field; monitoring fans, the media and guests during practices; and doing curfew checks of players at the end of the night. He even served in player engagement, which helps team members and their families get necessary resources off the field.
“They make you feel like you are a part of the team,” said Martinez. “The Texans organization is one of the best places to work in Houston.”
During the paid internship, Martinez worked 80 hours a week and stayed at the hotel with the players and staff. His day began at 5:45 a.m. getting the players on the practice field, escorting them through hordes offans waiting to catch a glimpse of their favorites. Some practices were open to the public, but others were restricted to guests and the media. His night ended at 10 p.m. after bed checks of all the players in their hotel rooms.
“The main objective of Ethan’s internship was for him to learn as much as possible about team security for the Houston Texans and the National Football League,” said Khalil Reed, player engagement/security manager for the Texans. “Ethan asked plenty of questions, provided his own input from past experiences and came to work every day with the workman’s attitude of assisting the team security department.”
Martinez always had to keep a watchful eye on the crowd, and several times he had to escort individuals away from the field, like the fan that appeared suddenly at a closed practice, snapping pictures with his cell phone. Even after escorting him outside of the Methodist Training Facilities, the fan continued to find openings and persisted. It was only after backup arrived that the fan left.
Martinez also had to monitor the media during practice. While media are invited to watch, videotaping during practice is strictly prohibited. Martinez also was assigned to escort Coach Gary Kubiak’s guests during practice, often joining them for team lunches in the Texans cafeteria.
“You have to make sure the fence lines are secure because some people try to breach them,” said Martinez. “When you are doing security, it is about surveillance and structure. We have security cameras for ‘just in case’ purposes. All measures are in place to make sure we are ready for not if it happens, but when it happens. You never know when you will deal with fanatical fans or people who want to steal.”
As part of his job, Martinez had to memorize all 110 players and coaches invited to training camp, a number that eventually was whittleddown to 53. It was his job to escort players to and from the meetings where they learned their fates with the team.
“Ethan demonstrated the ability to fit in and work with all different type personalities to accomplish tasks and assignments,” said Reed. “I believe this internship opened Ethan’s eyes to another avenue in the criminal justice field, and he’s gained valuable experience that would make him an attractive asset for any organization.”
While Martinez remains in awe of the Texans, the best part of the job was the connections he made for future employment. He got to work with several different law enforcement agencies and former federal agents, including private stadium security, Houston police officers working second jobs with the team, and NFL security representatives.
“I learned a sense of urgency, that you have to move and be ready to move,” said Martinez. “You have to be able to shoot off and handle situations. If you see a problem, you have to go straight to it, fix it and ask questions later. You have to be professional and know how to deal with people and you have to know the rules.”
Martinez hopes to use his new-found skills and contacts to get a job with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the security and law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of State for international investigation, threat analysis, cyber security, counterterrorism, security technology and protection of people, property and information. He already has some international experience under his belt after studying for a semester at Zhejiang Police College in Hangzhou, China through a dual degree program with the College of Criminal Justice.
In China, the education for police officers is four years; in the U.S., police academies average about six months. In addition to being immersed in Chinese culture, Martinez witnessed how China is working with other countries to improve its law enforcement practices. He took classes in policing cooperation, Chinese, Chinese policing, and self defense, and he also got to interact with high-ranking police officials in China, despite a language barrier.
“School was completely different,” said Martinez. “The college is a paramilitary institute that is run by the Ministry of Public Security. It was a really great experience because I got to see not only what life is like for a student in China, but to see what is put into actually training China's future law enforcement officers.
“Although our governments may not agree with specific international issues, I did get a great sense of interest for future cooperation between China's law enforcement entities and the United States law enforcement agencies as well as other countries,” Martinez said. “During my stay, the college hosted police delegations from Texas, Hong Kong, Tanzania and Afghanistan.”
Martinez has caught the travel bug and hopes to make it part of his career.
“My adventure in China was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I would do anything to experience again,” he said. “Life was completely different. What's so great about China is how the country is constantly progressing; from the infrastructure to its people's way of life. If you were to look at the skyline in any city, you would see one thing, and that's the endless sea of newly constructed high-rise buildings or the beginning of construction of a luxurious apartment complex of high sophistication with its cranes and scaffolding, that outline the soon to be completed establishments.”