BOZEMAN — We’ve all seen the 1986 movie Top Gun with Goose and Maverick flying through the air. Two Bozeman athletes four years ago were competing as Hawks track captains, but now they're getting ready to take to skies as United State Naval Pilots.
“Cade’s probably Maverick and Evan’s more of a Goose,” said their former coach, Eric Fisher.
“I like to think I’m Maverick, but I’m really more of a Goose probably," said Evan Morris, who is set to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy in the spring. "People who know me know I’m more of a Goose.”
“I would have to say I’m Goose, because I’m the bigger one,” said Cade Wessel, who is also set to graduate from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in the spring.
From the Bozeman High class of 2017, Morris was a track captain for the Hawks, and Wessel was a two-time state champion javelin thrower. Wessel also was a captain for the football and track teams.
“Both Cade and Evan were phenomenal leaders for us," Fisher said. "They were both captains, they were excellent leaders by example, vocal leaders, everything you look for in senior leaders and senior captains.”
For Morris, he always wanted to be a military pilot. He's a big fan of Top Gun.
“Growing up in a place like Bozeman, I realized how fortunate I was to have so much opportunity around me and to grow up in such a good place with family and friends and I wanted to give back in some way," he said. "The academy was a good way to do that and also it was a challenge -- I wanted to do something difficult. It was a challenge the last three and half years.”
Wessel has followed the footsteps of his mother, who was a Naval Corpsman, and his brother went to the Air Force Academy. He has continued his track career at the NCAA Division I level.
“Decided (the) Naval Academy was the best fit because I could do anything out of there," he said. "I could go Marine Corps, I could be a pilot, there was a special warfare program.”
The two have used their leadership from their Bozeman Hawk days as stepping stones to their ability to lead in the military.
“Playing sports in high school, and especially being a captain in track and football, really helped me test out the waters a little bit," said Wessel. "I mean, I made a lot of mistakes as a captain I’ve learned, especially since coming to the Naval Academy.”
“Being a captain senior year, it was the first stepping stone to try and figure out what our own leadership style was going to be," said Morris. "I know at the academy one big thing they champion is trying to find your own leadership philosophy and try and make that authentic to you.”
It’s rare enough that two Bozeman High classmates would be accepted into the Naval Academy, but now they have also both been accepted into the Naval Pilot Program and will go to Pensacola, Florida shortly after graduation to learn how to fly.
“It was thrilling, because after three and half years of hard work it was vindicating to get that finally,” Morris said.
“I can't wait to fly, everything with being able to go fast," said Wessel.
With becoming a pilot comes two years of training and then another eight years added onto the service contract. They aren’t sure what they’ll be flying just yet.
“It feels like we’re just starting, at least for me," Morris said. "I think that I learned a lot about myself the last three and a half years about who I want to be, what I want to do, but this is just the beginning, is how I feel.”
Wessel would prefer to be behind the throttle of a jet.
“Jets, definitely," he said when asked what he wants to fly. "I want to go fast.”
Coming from military families, this a dream come true and both can’t wait to see what their military service takes them as naval pilots.
“Can’t wait to fight for this country, I love this country and I love Bozeman Montana,” Wessel said.