Gridiron cop

Rookie sheriff’s deputy Joshua Langensiepen straps up for his first Pig Bowl


Joshua Langensiepen is about to join a very strange tradition.

The 25-year-old is in his first year with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, but that's not the unique group we mean.

For four decades now, the Sacramento Pig Bowl has pitted local law enforcement officers against other public safety professionals in a some-holds-barred gridiron classic. Last year, the law enforcement “guns” edged the firefighting “hoses” in an epic contest that doubles as an annual fundraiser for various charities. Proceeds from the 41st Pig Bowl—and 12th straight matchup between cops and firefighters—will benefit chaplaincy programs, at-risk youth, burn victims, autism treatment and other worthy causes.

The game kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday, January 24, inside of Sacramento State University's vaunted Hornet Stadium, where Langensiepen's father used to play in college. But that isn't the only echo from the past.

Langensiepen's dad, a former state corrections investigator, will be among the coaching “guns” on the sidelines shouting orders downfield.

Here, the 6-foot-1 inside-outside linebacker breaks from a Razorbacks huddle to discuss three-a-week practices and whether cops can really out-party firefighters.

As the ultimate rookie, what kind of hazing have you endured?

You know, all the normal stuff like being taped to the goal post. Just kidding. The guys have been really supportive of all the new players. I couldn’t ask for a better transition into things.

Tell me how you joined the team.

There wasn’t any rigorous try-out process, but they do expect you to show up in shape. We hit the ground running the first day. I would say the biggest influence [for joining] was my dad. We had always joked about one day being one of the only father-son combinations playing in the game, but he opted to coach instead. I’m still waiting for him to show up on game day with his pads! These guys had so many great stories that it motivated me to hopefully one day share in some of those same things.

This year, you law enforcement “hogs” are again playing firefighting “dogs.” Give me your best smack talk for the opposing team.

[Laughs] Best smack talk, eh? Well, if they say you’re only as good as your last game, look no further than last year’s score.

“Pig Bowl” sounds a little derogatory to me, but apparently “Pig” stands for “pride,” “integrity” and “guts.” What does “Bowl” stand for?

I’m going to have to get back to you on that one. I’m stumped.

There’s been a lot of scrutiny on the badge this past year. What, if anything, do you think this game can do for relations between law enforcement and the community?

I believe this game provides an opportunity for the community and law enforcement to build rapport by utilizing a different setting and type of uniform. This game allows community members to see law enforcement officials in a different light.

Your dad played in a version of the Pig Bowl that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation used to run. Does that add any extra pressure to the upcoming game?

Absolutely. Twenty years later, I can still recall that game. They called it the Bull Bowl and they played at Amador High School. I remember that it was packed, like two- or three thousand people on a chilly night. I was an honorary captain and during the coin toss at the 50-yard line and I turned to my dad and told him, “Wow, these guys are huge!”

How has the overall experience been leading up to the game?

The overall experience has been great. I grew up watching this game and now I’ve been privileged enough to share in this experience with some great guys. There is so much history that I am still trying to learn. No matter what your rank or how many years you’ve been on with the department, when you hit that field none of it matters. So if you blast your sergeant or someone, you can smile, help them up and do it again. It’s the only place where that would fly.

As someone who played football competitively in high school and college, how have these practices compared with your league days?

They probably have to dial it down a little since we aren’t 16 anymore, but we still get after it! For me, the most grueling part isn’t the physicality of the game, but instead learning their style of defense. I have a pretty good football IQ, but every defense has its little twists. I’ve learned over my years of playing ball that no matter what type of athlete you are, you are useless if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Could this Razorbacks team take your high school varsity one?

I’ve heard stories of some great Razorback teams, but I would never bet against our Sheldon [High School] team.

It’s said that the parties surrounding these games get a little wild. Who parties harder— cops or firefighters?

Cops, hands down.