Sunday, September 11, 2016

Pigskin Pilot: West Orange center closes in on earning pilot's license

Braden Garman, a senior center for the Warriors, has been learning to fly and earning his pilot's license over the past year at First Landings Aviation in Apopka.

“What do you want to do?”

That was the question posed to West Orange senior center Braden Garman by his father, Robert Garman, back in 2015. Then a junior, the offensive lineman for the Warriors gave the question some thought and decided he wanted to pursue a lifelong interest of his: flying.

Through a family friend, Braden was able to go up in the air with a veteran pilot. He was hooked immediately.

“From that minute on, I knew that I loved it,” Braden said.

Since then, in addition to his role as a student-athlete at West Orange and working a part-time job at Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar at Universal Studios’ CityWalk, Braden has been a student at First Landings Aviation based at the Orlando-Apopka Regional Airport. 

He has logged more than 40 hours of flight since he began as a student in December 2015 and has just seven hours left of solo flight time before he takes his “check ride” and can receive his license — in all likelihood before he walks across the stage for his high-school graduation.

More than a year after asking that fateful question, Robert Garman is more than proud of his son’s work ethic and time management.

“Over the last year, I’ve really seen him mature,” Robert Garman said. “He really has very little downtime. … I’ve been really impressed with the way he has kind of been pulling that stuff together.”

Back on the football field, Braden is finding himself in new territory as a senior. Braden earned the job as the Warriors’ starting center in the spring of his freshman year (2014) — just ahead of the two best seasons (2014 and 2015) in the program’s history.

Now a senior, Braden is the only member of last year’s offensive line that is left after 18 of West Orange’s 22 starters graduated.

“It’s really different, because now, I’m the guy everybody looks to,” Braden said.

It is not lost on Braden how special his time at West Orange has been — even with at least eight more games to play. The opportunity to play with so many players on the offensive side of the ball who have gone on to play college football — from Dexter Williams to Jalen Julius to Eddie McDoom and so on — has been a unique experience for any high school player.

And then, of course, there are the two blue-chip quarterbacks Braden to whom has been responsible for snapping the ball: Woody Barrett, now a freshman at Auburn University, and Austin Burton, the Warriors’ current starter who is committed to UCLA.

“It’s really cool working with guys that are going to big places,” Braden said. “Woody, definitely, he was the hype guy. Austin is more of a lead-by-example guy.”

Braden, himself, hopes to go places, although his dream job as a commercial or cargo pilot narrows his field of colleges. In Florida, for instance, schools such as Florida Tech and Jacksonville University are among the few colleges with both football and aviation programs.

Even if he were able to earn a scholarship at one of those schools or another like them, the task of studying aviation and playing college football would be no small order.

“I know that if I did that it would be really hard work,” Braden said. “They are both intensive things to do.”

As Braden’s senior season continues along, it will be a special year for both him and his family. Both of Braden’s parents — Robert and Amy Garman — are heavily involved in the West Orange Quarterback Club and have enjoyed their time within the Warrior community.

“It’s exciting, because it’s his senior year, but it’s also kind of a bittersweet thing,” Robert Garman said.

Hopefully for the Garmans, the Warriors — who are 1-1 after two games — can put together another playoff run to extend the season for as long as possible. Although West Orange is fresh off a sound defeat by Winter Park in Week Two, Braden believes the future is still bright for the Warriors.

“It’s just going to take a lot of heart, a lot of effort, and everybody has just got to get on board,” he said.

What's so different?

There are a number of differences between owning and using a car and operating a plane — and one of the biggest is maintenance. 

According to Braden Garman, whereas someone might wait for a problem to arise with their car before taking action, the opposite is true of maintenance of a plane — after all, no one wants to encounter the equivalent of a flat tire while thousands of feet in the air.

“With airplanes, (the maintenance is) all preventative,” Braden Garman said.


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