WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — A Maryland State Police trooper candidate will defy odds when he walks across the stage at his police academy Friday.

Derek Harper will become third-generation state trooper in his family as his father Sgt. David Harper will be waiting for him at the end of the stage to pin a gold badge on his uniform. His father is a 28-year veteran of the state police.

Derek Harper. Credit: Maryland State Police

Derek, 21, is a member of Maryland State Police Academy Class 148.

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“Sgt. Harper said he never once told Derek he wanted him to become a Maryland state trooper. He said his son first indicated he might want to follow in his father and grandfather’s career choice when he was in middle school,” state police said in a statement.

At the age of three, Derek was diagnosed with cerebral palsy that affected his legs.

Derek Harper in 2007 after surgery. Courtesy: Maryland State Police

Initially, he had many doctors visits and therapy at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. He got shots in his legs and wore braces to help him balance. In 2007, Derek had major surgery on his legs and wore casts for six weeks.

Derek Harper in his casts following surgery. Courtesy: Maryland State Police

Despite the obstacles, Derek’s dad and mom, Sandy, never wanted him to restrict him from trying things.

He played T-ball, soccer and ran cross-country in elementary school even in braces.

Derek running cross-country in elementary school. Courtesy: Maryland State Police

He was a cub scout, Civil Air Patrol, joined band and even attended a boot camp run by military and police officers in Pennsylvania that focused on law enforcement.

When Derek graduated from high school in 2016, he passed the physical fitness test and was hired by the Maryland State Police as a cadet.

He was assigned to the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division New Market scale house and passed every physical test cadets received.

In Sept. 2018, Derek joined his police academy class.

“He has endured the rigors of a six-month residential police training academy that is known as one of the toughest in the country. He enrolled in the concurrent degree program with Frederick Community College and will complete his Associate of Arts degree in criminal justice soon after graduating from the Academy,” the state police said. “He has endured the mental, physical and emotional challenges this intense training has presented him with. He has overcome each one.”

Derek’s grandfather was also a state trooper.

“I’ll be thinking that’s my little boy, who I had to carry around because he couldn’t walk too far. Now, look how far he’s come,” said Sgt. Harper, when asked what he will be thinking when his son walks across the stage.

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