As part of his duties to protect and preserve Texas' natural resources, game warden Jamal Allen '16 checks the fishing licenses of two individuals to ensure they are following state fishing laws.
SFA football standout now serves as Texas game warden
Story by Christine Broussard '10 & '20
Photos by Gabrielle Czapla '20
Job descriptions are funny things.
Though packed full of highfalutin words, they don't really tell you much about the reality of day-to-day tasks.
"Assist with the implementation of technology-related resources," for example, could translate on a particularly tiresome day to "Refill the printer's paper tray."
It's true for any job — take Jamal Allen's for example. As a 2016 SFA graduate and Texas game warden in Jefferson County, the reality of his job directive to "protect and preserve the natural resources of the state of Texas" could, on any given day, mean anything from natural disaster response to hunting and fishing compliance.
"A day in the life of a Texas game warden is unpredictable," Allen said. "'Expect the unexpected' is a common phrase I find myself using on a daily basis. One minute, I could be wrangling an alligator, and the next minute, I could be boarding commercial shrimp boats 30 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico."
Add to that his occasional appearances on Animal Planet's "Lone Star Law" TV series, and you might as well throw the game warden job description out with the proverbial bath water.
Jokes aside, the vast and varied job duties of a game warden are all firmly grounded in Texas law enforcement and resource protection. The latter is something Allen's connected with his whole life, having grown up hunting and fishing in the woods and fields of his rural East Texas hometown of Frankston.
"A game warden's main job duty is to protect Texas' natural resources to ensure they're around for generations to come," Allen said. "As an avid fan of the outdoors, it is vital to have rules and regulations on hunting and fishing. Let's just imagine if we didn't — our natural resources and species would be wiped out in no time."
Enforcement of commercial shrimping laws, however, is a far cry from the days Allen spent running the field at SFA's Homer Bryce Stadium. He and his twin brother, Jabralon '16, both received full scholarships to play football for the university and, as brothers in a close-knit family, found it both the perfect opportunity and distance from home.
Allen calls his time at SFA "nothing short of amazing."
"My main goal was to attend college, play ball and become the first member of my family to get a college degree," he said. "Along the way, I found my best friend, Ellen ('17), made her my wife and developed lifelong friends, some of whom I still consider family. Often times, I wish I could go back to college and relive some of the happiest moments I've found in life."
One of those moments was when Allen received the 2016 Cally Belcher Award. It annually recognizes one player who gets the honor of wearing the No. 16 jersey during game play in memory of the late Presley Calloway "Cally" Belcher, who played defensive back on the Lumberjack football team in the early 1990s.
"It was an honor and a privilege to receive the Cally Belcher Award," Allen said. "Throwing the No. 16 jersey on before the game felt unreal. I wanted to honor his legacy and name, so that game wasn't a normal game — I was playing for something bigger than myself."
Knowing he wanted to be a game warden, Allen tailored his diverse academic pursuits to prepare him for the field. He majored in criminal justice and minored in forestry, and he stayed active outside of the classroom.
"I was on the football team my whole time at SFA and was a redshirt my first year, then played every year after until graduation," Allen said. "When I had time away from football, I attended Criminal Justice Association and Wildlife Society meetings while also working part time at Party 'N Things."
One does not simply become a Texas game warden, however. The road to joining the warden ranks is a long one.
"I did not start my career as a game warden right after college. In fact, I didn't make the cut the first time I applied," Allen said. "I worked several manual labor jobs around town and did countless hours riding along with game wardens from around the state so I could be prepared for the next year's application."
Allen even became a Texas parole officer for more than a year before reapplying to the Texas Game Warden Academy. "I used the job as a parole officer to get my foot in the door with the state to help me become a game warden. Getting accepted into the Texas Game Warden Academy is a challenging and lengthy process. When I was finally accepted, there were approximately 2,000 applicants, and only 40 of us got the job."
Despite the years-long wait, Allen's job as a game warden is everything he expected it to be and more.
"It has its surprises, good and bad, but what really surprised me is the amount of responsibility I would take on once I graduated from the academy," he said. "We are fully commissioned state peace officers and are responsible for the enforcement of all Texas criminal laws. So, I can go from checking hunting and fishing licenses to arresting someone for driving while intoxicated.
"For example, in the summertime, game wardens have water safety obligations on any body of water in the state," he added. "It's our job to protect the waterways from unsafe operations and arrest boaters who are operating vessels while intoxicated. From dreaming of being a Texas game warden to it becoming a reality is still a shocker for me. I often say I'm living the dream because I truly am."
Not long into Allen's career as a game warden, part of that dream included, to his surprise, occasionally appearing on television.
"Honestly, I was totally against being on 'Lone Star Law' when I was first asked to do it because I was fresh out of the academy," Allen said. "I knew I didn't have all the answers and didn't want to say the wrong thing on national TV, but I quickly grew out of that phase. 'Lone Star Law' is a great show for viewers to get a little glimpse of what we do on our patrol days."
Crew members of "Lone Star Law" film game wardens on the job all across Texas. They've been to Jefferson County to record Allen and his coworkers a number of times and, so far, he has been featured on two episodes, with more to come.
The first time the show's crew patrolled with him, Allen "was a nervous wreck," he laughed. "I was camera shy and unable to form a sentence while recording. It was a bit uncomfortable and unnatural at first, having a camera crew following me around with hidden mics and GoPros hooked up everywhere, but they do such a great job of staying out of my way and letting me work. They are professionals."
Truly, job descriptions don't do many careers justice. But thankfully, their ambiguity leaves wiggle room for unexpected adventure.
"I love my job, and every morning when I get in my truck, I get the same feeling I had just before running out onto the Homer Bryce Stadium field to play a football game. That's how I know this is the career for me."