By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Growing up in California, redshirt sophomore Koa Farmer probably could not have envisioned the type of experience he has already attained at Penn State.
He signed a letter of intent to attend the University Park campus in February 2014 with aspirations of being a forensic science major, in addition to playing football for a program at the highest level.
"I've always been interested in this type of work," Farmer said. "When I was growing up, watching shows like Criminal Minds, CSI, Law and Order, I just loved watching those shows. I didn't see myself majoring in something that wasn't hands on like this."
Through his first few classes pertaining to forensic science in Happy Valley, Farmer struck a relationship with a professor in a quest to learn more about the profession. Forensic Science professor Dr. Jenifer Smith's influence solidified Farmer's belief that he wanted to pursue a career in the business.
Dr. Smith was then named to lead the Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS) in Washington, D.C., last summer. Although she left Penn State, Farmer remained in contact with to lay the groundwork for an opportunity to gain firsthand experience this summer.
Farmer is taking courses, working out with his teammates and then traveling to Washington, D.C. for a rotational internship program with several organizations, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS) and Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPD).
"I'm so grateful that I had to chance to meet her at Penn State," said Farmer. "She has been a huge influence on me. The experience I'm getting this summer is amazing."
Now focusing on a double major in criminology and sociology, Farmer travels to Virginia each Friday, staying at the family home of teammate Trace McSorley in Ashburn, Va., and then commuting into D.C.
"I'm using this as a chance to figure out what I want to do," said Farmer. "That's why this has been so great being able to get some experience with so many different agencies. You can say you want to do one thing, but you just don't know until you experience it. It has been awesome this summer."
While shadowing the forensics department, Farmer helped gather fingerprints on a vehicle used in a crime and traveled to a crime scene to help gather evidence.
"It was like being in a movie. Here I was on a crime scene with this staff wearing a bullet proof vest and helping as they collected evidence and took photos of the crime scene," said Farmer.
Farmer called his Friday with the Metropolitan Police one of the most exciting days of his life.
"I was paired with the narcotics department with three other people in a car," said Farmer. "We were basically undercover while basically doing a stakeout. I'm sitting in the car when everyone moves in, and I just see everything happening as the sergeants move in."
From growth on the field as a football player to developing a career path, Farmer has already done his part in maximizing his opportunity as football student-athlete in his time at Penn State.
"The best thing for me was to come to Penn State," said Farmer. "All of the puzzle pieces are fitting. I get to play football. I get to attend a great school. I get to meet people and start my network. If I didn't come here, I would have never had the chance to meet someone like the head of the forensics department in Washington, D.C."
Farmer will continue the rotational program in Washington until the team returns to the practice field for training camp in early August.