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Dennis Gardeck Flies As Cardinals Visit Luke Air Force Base 

Annual trip to see Air Force should be captured in Hard Knocks

Linebacker Dennis Gardeck is ready for his flight in an F-16 fighter jet on Tuesday during a player visit to Luke Air Force Base.
Linebacker Dennis Gardeck is ready for his flight in an F-16 fighter jet on Tuesday during a player visit to Luke Air Force Base.

Trace McSorley didn't know what to expect while preparing to visit the Luke Air Force Base in Glendale.

"I didn't know how close we would be able to see everything," the Cardinals quarterback said. "It was awesome."

McSorley, linebackers Cameron Thomas and Jesse Luketa took a tour of the base with Big Red and Cardinals cheerleaders in attendance. NFL Films followed the players around for additional Hard Knocks footage.

Inside the training facility, military personnel showed off jets and missiles to the players.

The players had the chance to practice walking with the missiles and loading them on the jets. Luketa was cautious when his turn came.

"Absolutely," Luketa said with a laugh. "Before I started loading it up, I wanted to make sure it wasn't going to blow up or anything if I dropped it. So that was the first question I asked them."

There were no explosions, and afterward, everyone took a group picture before military personnel received Salute to Service shirts for the players to autograph.

Next came the visit to the Titan area, where pilots prepare to fly or rehab from injury. There the players engaged in tests for eye coordination and heart rate balance.

McSorley acknowledged his increased respect for pilots and what they do.

"There's much more than just learning how to fly," he said. "Even seeing the pilots physically, they have to be in shape to get into a jet. It gives you more perspective on what these men and women put themselves through to perform when it's time."

Linebacker Dennis Gardeck operated on a different schedule during the day because he was taking a ride in an F-16 fighter jet. Gardeck went through a physical and then took part in some training before his flight.

Before Gardeck walked towards the jet for takeoff, it wasn't hard to tell he was nervous.

"I wasn't sure if I needed to be clinching or anything like that," Gardeck said. "I had my oxygen going. But takeoff was good and everything went well."

There were tummy-turners, comfortable low-level stuff, the chance to handle the controls, the fear of falling in the air, and, as Gardeck had predicted, throwing up with the harsh G forces.

Gardeck did something many people dream about: A one-day experience of being a pilot.

"It was awesome," he said. "To put on the uniform and go up in the jet, I have a tremendous amount of respect for them and what they do."

Images of Arizona Cardinals players Trace McSorely, Cameron Thomas and Jesse Luketa visiting Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, AZ

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