The Top Gun dream lives on for Kaiser Cambra-Cho.
The Saint Louis football player dreamed of becoming a pilot, and his signing with the U.S. Air Force Academy on Wednesday morning brings him one step closer. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound safety was drawn to play football at the Division I level, but the chance to pursue his dream through the Air Force was the deal maker.
“I had Army and the University of San Diego. I was actually committed to Army, but I ended up changing my mind. I really thought about it,” he said. “My dad is a veteran. He was in the Army (and later Marines) straight out of high school. He told me it’s a much different way of life (in the Air Force) than the other branches. If you’re a pilot, you get placed in better places. You get more rest. You get to be housed in different places like hotels.”
Before football became a means of gaining a free college education, before the state championships and national rankings for the Crusaders, Cambra-Cho was glued to the big and little screens.
“I’ve always wanted to be a pilot. I watched “Top Gun” a lot as a kid. It kind of appealed to me,” Cambra-Cho said.
The days of height restrictions for potential pilots still exist.
“I talked to a few veterans. They said they measure the length of your torso and legs. It’s not just your height. I have an uncle who is a Blue Angel. He was in the Navy,” Cambra-Cho said. “He talks about how much he loved being a pilot.”
Between classes, duties and football, military life would seem to be regimented and scheduled down to the minute.
“At Air Force, it’s different from other academies. Their military aspect is different. You’re not up running at 5 o’clock, running miles. It’s more so about being smart. You do have physical aspects to it, and practice, but they work with you and they understand that you’re balancing a bunch of different things.”
Cambra-Cho will likely battle for playing time as a nickel corner. He plans on going into engineering or business. It’s a new chapter in a life that he views from a global perspective.
“I love traveling. I like to travel a lot. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel with my mom. She works for Hawaiian Airlines, so she tells me how good the life is,” he said. “I like to go see the world.”
Dubai. Toronto. There are places on Cambra-Cho’s bucket list. There’s also Australia, which he has already visited. And New Zealand.
“I wouldn’t mind living there one day. It’s beautiful,” he said.
For now, Colorado Springs, Colo. will do.
Four-time defending state champion Saint Louis has one of the most decorated and scholarship defensive units in island history. Signees, including those who are already enrolled in college, include: Jordan Botelho, LB, Notre Dame; Nick Herbig, LB, Wisconsin; Stanley McKenzie, DL, California; Kamo‘i Latu, S, Utah; Darrell Masaniai, LB, San Diego State; Lawai Brown, LB, Central Michigan. LB/DB Mason Tufaga, a junior, has 10 offers.