KU will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the 2008 Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
Flyovers are a specialty for Lt. Col. Garth Terlizzi Jr.
A Lawrence native, Terlizzi has piloted F-16 fighters over football games, NASCAR events and even baseball games.
So serving as the lead pilot during Wednesday afternoon’s flyover at the Insight Bowl will be a “milk run” — aerospeak for routine — for Terlizzi.
With one exception.
“I’ve always wanted to do a KU game,” he said.
Terlizzi, a 1986 Lawrence High graduate, says he landed the gig to buzz the Kansas-Minnesota pregame festivities thanks to some inside information.
“A buddy I fly with is on the Fiesta Bowl committee,” Terlizzi said, “and he told me there was a good chance KU was coming to the Insight Bowl.”
Luckily for Terlizzi, his squadron at Luke AFB in suburban Phoenix had already been tapped for Insight Bowl duty.
“There are six or eight squadrons at Luke, and they alternate in kind of a round-robin,” Terlizzi said. “With my squadron tasked for it, I quickly volunteered.”
Another domino had to fall into place. He had to be off from his day job as a pilot for Southwest Airlines. That was fairly easy because, by rule, he flies only 12 days a month for the national carrier.
So he’ll be in the cockpit of the lead jet during Wednesday’s pregame ceremonies.
Terlizzi graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1990 and flew fighter jets for 10 years before returning to Lawrence to join his dad, Garth Sr., in the investment business.
That stint lasted about a year and a half, until soon after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
“After 9/11 they needed guys back in the Air Force so I went back in,” Terlizzi said.
Nearly four years ago, Terlizzi shifted to the Air Force Reserves and became a first officer with Southwest Airlines. Based in Phoenix, he usually flies West Coast routes.
“I do as many day trips as possible,” Terlizzi said, “so I can be back home with the kids.”
Terlizzi, 40, and his wife, Stephanie, have four young sons. The family was featured on “The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom,” a reality series that aired last spring on The Learning Channel.
Terlizzi did not participate in football while at the Air Force Academy — he played intramural rugby — but was a two-year letterman at Lawrence High School.
A nose guard, Terlizzi played on the Lions’ 1984 Class 6A state championship team as a junior. During his senior year, however, the Lions went into a semifinal against Shawnee Mission West with a 10-0 record and lost, 16-0.
“I still think about that game,” Terlizzi said. “It eats at me.”