Column: Servite’s Zion Sims is ready to report for Army duty at West Point

Servite defensive back Zion Sims
Servite defensive back Zion Sims is headed to Army.
(Heston Quan)

When COVID-19 shut down schools and athletic programs in March 2020, Anaheim Servite High football coach Troy Thomas started having players give speeches via Zoom. He’d suggest a word and the player had to put together a presentation.

Little did Thomas or the rest of the team know that defensive back Zion Sims would produce speeches so inspiring he’d be asked to create more.

“We were shocked,” Thomas said. “Once we had one of Zion’s speeches, we wanted to keep going back. Even other kids would be talking about it, ‘Wow, did you hear Zion’s speech?’ He blew our mind. It was so well-written and to the point what we were trying to get out — different lessons that offseason football could teach you.”


Sims wasn’t known as a public speaker. He was a quiet, humble junior, so everyone learned something new. It was the first hint what Sims might become in the future — an officer in the military.

While hundreds of college players are entering their names in the transfer portal, prepared to switch allegiances, Sims has made a commitment that probably will last for the next 12 years. He has signed with Army, which means four years at West Point, five years of active military duty, and three years in the reserves.

“I really didn’t know about West Point until one of the coaches reached out to me,” he said. “I was intrigued. I didn’t know the culture. I did some research on my own. The more I looked into the school, the more I could see it could be a great decision for me and set me up for success. That’s what drew me — the long-term benefits.”

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A 6-foot, 180-pound senior defensive back, Sims was a key contributor for a Servite team that lost to Santa Ana Mater Dei in the Southern Section Division 1 championship game.

“I found out the academy was on par with Ivy League schools, something I was interested in,” he said. “I fell in love with the brotherhood. It reminded me of Servite and how the students were connected.”

Many athletes make commitments and later change their minds. Sims understands the gravity of the commitment he’s making. There still will be time to reverse course in the first two years, but that’s not how attending a military academy works. The government is investing thousands of dollars to help develop young men and women into strong leaders.


“When you go there, they’re spending money, time, resources so you can become an officer at the end,” Sims said. “Along the way, it builds you up. I had a lot of family members telling me how good an opportunity it was. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You get to play football. I trust my mentors.

Sims has a 4.5 grade-point average, so if he does as well at West Point, he’ll have top options on what specialty he could go into once he graduates as a second lieutenant. There’s aviation, artillery, cyber, combat and noncombat, among others.

Or course, during the summer, there’s going to be a boot camp-like introduction, where someone might be yelling at him and telling him to wake up very early and make sure there are no wrinkles in his shirt. Does that sound like anyone he knows?

Coach Thomas yelling at him — that’s something scary.

He survived prowler workout drills at Servite and made it through waking up at 6 a.m. for weight training, so Army should be a breeze.

“They challenge you like Servite to step out of your comfort zone,” Sims said.

Now, if only he learns what it means when the week comes that everyone is saying, “Go Army. Beat Navy.”


Wait a minute. He knows.

“It’s another rivalry just like Servite and Mater Dei,” he said.