Former Payson High School football and baseball star Bryan Zumbro has traded in his bats and shoulder pads for rides in United States Air Force F-16 jets.
A standout player on the Longhorns 1998 football and 1999 baseball state championship teams, Zumbro accepted a scholarship to the United States Air Force Academy following his graduation from PHS.
Now a first sergeant, third-year student and the cadet commander of Squadron 19, "the Wolverines," Zumbro's most recent summer assignment took him to Luke Air Force Base near Glendale where he trained for three weeks in fighter jets.
"The operation was designed to give cadets an idea of what an operational Air Force base does," Zumbro said.
The Payson graduate called the stay at Luke one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of his Air Force training.
Since that stint, Zumbro has returned to the Colorado campus of the academy where classes started Aug. 5 and he is continuing his studies in behavioral science/human factors.
"Life is back to normal," he said. "We had a parade and an inspection today," Zumbro said. He was on his way back to Denver, where he and fellow cadets were looking forward to a Colorado Rockies vs. Chicago Cubs baseball game.
Entering the academy, Zumbro's goal was to someday earn his wings as a fighter jet pilot.
"I've always wanted to fly," he said.
To do that, he hopes to enroll in Air Force flight school after his graduation next year from the academy.
"Actually we learn in December of our senior year what our assignment is," he said.
Following flight school, he could have the option of training in specialized aircraft like F-16s.