The first article in a series looking at unheralded individuals helping others in the world of sports:
Chad Sauter never wants to see his players again. At least not while on duty.
Sauter is a Los Angeles Sheriff's Department deputy who deals with his share of unsavory characters.
At 6 feet 4 and 240 pounds, Sauter is also plenty intimidating. He was an All-Pacific 10 Conference offensive lineman at UCLA who longed to become a fifth-generation law enforcement officer upon graduating in 1998.
Even then, Sauter felt a calling to help inner-city teenagers. He listened and lamented when Bruins teammates talked about great players who, plagued by negative influences in their neighborhoods, never made it to college.
"It's almost bad to say," Sauter said, "but it's difficult to see how they do make it out successfully."
Sauter wanted to reverse that trend. So when he became a deputy assigned to the Century Station in Lynwood, he volunteered to help coach the linemen at Lynwood and Compton Centennial high schools through a program he devised with the help of a co-worker, Capt. Jim Hellmold.
Sauter splits practice time with the teams and when they play games on the same night, which is typical, he alternates between the two every other week.
At his first practice at Lynwood two years ago, he wasn't introduced as Deputy Sauter; it was Coach Sauter. Players didn't see him in uniform until the team banquet after the season.
"He just came in some shorts and a shirt," senior quarterback James Grisom recalled. "We just thought we had a new coach."
Though he is responsible for the linemen, Sauter, 33, works with quarterbacks on understanding defensive formations, and he shows linebackers how to read linemen's stances to determine whether the offense is going to run or pass.
Sauter says the teens he works with are good kids. And he plans to keep it that way through his own shock-and-awe campaign.
He awes players by showing off his Cotton Bowl and Rose Bowl rings as incentive to go to college. He shocks them with stories of teenage lives gone awry.
"He's seen kids go in and out of jail, get killed and all that," said DeShawn Foxx, a running back and linebacker for Lynwood. "That helped some of the players on the team open their eyes and realize that life's not a joke."
Even players who were initially hesitant about having a deputy in their midst have come to appreciate Sauter's easygoing manner and sense of humor.
"He does a good job with the at-risk kids," Lynwood Coach Mark Williams said. "I might tell him, 'This cat might have a little problem there. See what kind of rapport you can build with him.' After a while, you'll see him talking to them for hours."
They are conversations Sauter would much rather have now as opposed to later.