Football coach soars on base at Cherry Point

CHERRY POINT | Jim Bob Bryant sported the No. 7 on his jersey during his football playing days in high school and in college.

Havelock’s head coach took that digit to the extreme Thursday afternoon as he settled into the back of the No. 7 jet of the Blue Angels at Cherry Point.

Bryant was nominated by Mike Owens, the father of Havelock football player Trey Owens, who works on base.

“It was an honor. I want to thank Mike Owens, father of (senior at Havelock) Trey Owens, for nominating me for it,” Bryant said. “I want to thank the Blue Angels for their service and the Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, Navy and everybody who serves our country.

“Having a chance to come on base and see this, this is an awesome experience. Then to get a chance to fly in a Blue Angel jet and pull all those g’s and do dives and flips and loops, it was by far the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Bryant, who admittedly isn’t a fan of flying, stepped into the U.S. Navy’s jet and zipped as fast as seven G-forces.

He took turns and flips and dives at an intense pace.

Bryant said he only managed to black out for a short moment.

He passed the first test called the “pass out move” where the pilot takes off and abruptly soars to the open sky.

“I think I made it through the first move, then the second time, I think he knew he was going to get me. He got me a little bit,” Bryant said.

Blue Angels pilot Tyler Davies flew the plan.

Bryant, who has guided Havelock to three state championships in his eight seasons, listened to instructions from Blue Angels’ Joshua Wilbourne rather than delivering them.

Wilbourne asked Bryant if he liked rollercoasters.

“This is the rollercoaster,” he said.

“I was worried I was going to hit the wrong button and accidently eject myself. That was the biggest thing,” Bryant said. “I watched a few of the Go Pro videos online and I saw some people pass out.

“I did the best I could to do what they told me to do.”

Bryant is an adrenaline junkie, doing anything from bungie jumping to whitewater rafting.

His experience Thursday tops them all.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bryant said. “I’m an adrenaline junkie. I’ve probably bungie jumped 50 times, catapult bungie 20 times, whitewater rafting, motocross, parasailing. I’ve done all of that.

“Nothing compares to what I just did. That was the biggest adrenaline rushed I have ever had.”

Bryant was joined by his parents Jimmy and Janie Bryant, his sister Jackie Bryant and fiancé Mary Candace Lewis.

At the end of his flight, Bryant handed Davies a Havelock beanie, a hat and a shirt.

In return, Bryant was given a framed photo of the Blue Angels signed and with his name and date on it.

“I learned that these pilots and these guys who are in our armed forces, they put in a tremendous amount of work,” Bryant said.


Adam Thompson is the sports editor at the Sun Journal. He can be contacted at 252-635-5669. Follow Adam on Twitter @A_ThompsonNBSJ