(WRIC/ABC) — A West Virginia University police officer has become a viral star after he delivered a rousing performance of the national anthem when the scheduled singer got stuck in the snow.
28-year-old Carlton Smith was on duty at the WVU Coliseum on January 12 for a men’s basketball game when he says university officials came rushing up to him.
“They came over and asked if I was Carlton and they said, ‘We have a big favor. We don’t have anyone to sing the national anthem. It’s in like five minutes,” Smith, a four-year veteran of the WVU Police Department, told ABC News.
Smith is known among his police colleagues as a good singer. He says he reached the Hollywood round of “American Idol” in the show’s 13th season, but was caught off guard singing in front of a crowd on such short notice.
“I said, ‘Okay, can I have some water or something?,’” Smith said. “They got water from a cheerleader and then walked me through the concourse and onto the court in my place and said, ‘When they call your name, start singing.’”
“Normally I’d probably give myself an hour to an hour-and-a-half to warm-up and prepare, get my vocal chords warmed up before I start just belting out,” he said.
Smith wowed the crowd at the Coliseum, which holds 14,000 people. His performance has gone viral thanks to a college classmate, who’s now a journalist at a local sports media company.
Geoff Coyle, of West Virginia Illustrated, attended West Virginia University with Smith and had a colleague film his national anthem performance.
The YouTube video of Smith performing has now been viewed more than 1.2 million times.
“I started singing when I was really, really young in church and just ran with it when I got older,” said Smith, who sings at open mike nights with a band in his off-duty time. “It’s what I love to do.”