SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The 45th Annual Pig Bowl football charity game is taking place Saturday, January 26 at Sacramento State University.

The annual event between local firefighters and law enforcement officers comes with extra meaning this year, as departments are still mourning the deaths of several officers killed in the line of duty recently.

"That's why we play this game – because they can't," said James Walther, a homicide detective with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. "We take our time, time away from our families to support the families that lost their loved ones and cant do this."

Walther told ABC10 he's playing in memory of his friend and colleague, Deputy Robert French. "Bob French used to come out to every single Pig Bowl. That's how I knew him and now he can't me out, but his family still comes and supports us."

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Preparing for the game takes a lot of effort, time, and dedication from the players. Some of them rush to practice after a long day at work, and others play before starting an overnight shift three to five times a week. Still - it's something they look forward to every year. 

"I love being out here with these guys. I love being a part of my department and coming out here every year," said Will Robinson, a deputy for the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. 

While participating in the game is something all the players enjoy, many said the real motivation to continue this tradition is to give back to the communities they love to serve and protect.

"It lets all of us know that we still have the support of our community," explained Robinson, when asked what seeing community members in the stands meant to him. "We still have love from those who love what we do, and we always need that backing. It's that unconditional love that we get from everyone else that keeps us going."

For more information on Saturday's game, click here

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