Air Force senior safety Andy Gray won’t have football after Saturday’s game at New Mexico, but he’ll have plenty of other commitments to occupy his time. Next semester, Gray will become commander of the cadet wing, making him the academy’s highest-ranking cadet. Somewhat analogous to student body president at a typical university, the cadet wing commander works as a liaison between the academy’s senior leadership and the 4,000 cadets. Gray is the sixth football player chosen for the position and first since Scott Salmon in 1989. The last varsity athlete to serve as commander was volleyball player Delavane Diaz in the spring of 2003. “I’m pretty excited about it,” Gray said. “It’s a big deal to be in charge of a group of people like this. Just look at the guys on the football team, their grades and their personalities — this is a group of people at this institution that aren’t matched at many other places. To be able to lead them a little bit for the next semester is a privilege. I think it’s going to be a fun challenge.” Gray has had an interesting football career at Air Force. After entering the academy in 2000, he went on a two-year religious mission in South Africa. When he returned in 2003, Gray played backup quarterback and was No. 1 on the depth chart entering the fall of 2004. After last season, however, Gray moved to defense and has played as a backup to safety Bobby Giannini and intercepted a pass late in Air Force’s victory over UNLV. Gray also has made some big plays on special teams, recovering a fumble on a punt at Utah. “He is so deserving and is a consummate team player,” coach Fisher DeBerry said. “Andy is a great natural leader, and he’ll do a fantastic job of leading the cadet wing this spring.” The process of becoming commander begins when the Air Force major in charge of each of the academy’s 35 squadrons nominates two cadets. From there, the pool is narrowed to 20 through an interview process. The finalists are then interviewed by a board including several members of the academy’s leadership, who ultimately choose the commander. Four of the finalists were chosen as group commanders to work with Gray, who will choose the rest of a 30-person staff that works under the wing commander. “All the policies they (the senior leadership) want to implement, they come directly to me, and I disseminate that through the whole academy,” Gray said. “My main mission is to use my staff accordingly to make sure the standards are kept up by all the wing and we implement everything that goes on. A by-function of that is to help out, if there’s something from the cadet side, I can take it up and fight for it. I’m not even a second lieutenant yet, but I’m talking to the generals and colonels up there.” Gray, who turns 24 in January, has been accepted for pilot training after graduation but has applied to put that off for a year and remain to the academy as a graduate assistant football coach. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0258 or firstname.lastname@example.org NEXT AFA (3-7, 1-5) at N.M. (6-4, 4-3), 12:30 p.m. Sat., 740/560 AM
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