After his breathtaking performance during the national anthem at a men’s basketball game, West Virginia University police officer Carlton Smith became an internet phenomenon.

University administrators approached Smith with an urgent request on January 12, while he was on duty at the WVU Coliseum. They needed someone to perform the national anthem in just five minutes after the booked singer was delayed due to snow.

Officer Smith, who has been with the West Virginia University Police Department for four years, is recognized for his singing ability among his coworkers. He is 28 years old. In fact, he made it all the way to the Hollywood round of “American Idol” 13 years ago. The unexpected request to play to the Coliseum’s 14,000 spectators caught Smith off guard, even though he was no stranger to such situations.

Described the incident as follows: “They asked if I was Carlton and said they needed a big favor,” Smith clarified. I requested a glass of water, and a cheerleader kindly brought it to me. Their next step was to lead me to the court, where they instructed me to begin singing as soon as my name was called.

More than 2 million people have watched Smith’s performance on YouTube. While he’s not on the clock, Smith keeps up his childhood hobby of singing in church by performing with a band during open mic evenings. “It’s my passion,” he confessed.

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