Thousands of people audition for American Idol every year and millions more watch it on TV. This year, West Virginia has a rooting interest in the competition.
Patrolman Carlton Smith works the night shift for the West Virginia University Police Department. For nearly three years, he's patrolled campus at his own alma mater in Morgantown after studying criminology at WVU.
"I always wanted to be in federal law enforcement, but I thought it would be a good foot in the door just to get into local law enforcement," said Smith.
When he hangs up his uniform after a long day, Smith is able to pursue his other passion: music. He uses social media platforms like YouTube to share his voice with friends and family and fans.
Smith won WVU's Mountaineer Idol as a freshman in college and this past summer, he drove to Boston to audition for American Idol. Through it all, he got plenty of support from his fellow police officers.
"It's good to see them supporting one of their brothers and they're happy to lift me up and I appreciate that," said Smith, who brought good luck tokens from some local officers to his audition.
Smith joined thousands of other hopefuls singing in front of the judges, a daunting experience for anyone.
"To be honest, that was one of the scarier parts as well because I was like all of these people are phenomenal and I'm essentially competing against all of them. So that was really intense," said Smith.
"He was up for the challenge, though. Smith was one of the select few to get a golden ticket to Hollywood and continue to pursue his dreams on American Idol.
"Those are those words everybody wants to say when they watch the show," said Smith. "You see it over and over from the time you're a young kid and you just want to be the one to say, ‘I'm going to Hollywood.' Well, I'm going to Hollywood." And you can watch Smith on American Idol when Hollywood week begins on February 5th.