Each year, approximately 16,000 students apply to the United States Naval Academy and, each year, only about eight percent are admitted to Annapolis and only after an extremely rigorous and thorough application process.
Later this summer, Ryan Craft will be among that eight percent.
The Heritage multi-sport senior athlete celebrated his appointment with family and friends at the school this past Tuesday. Several dignitaries including local and state government representatives, Catoosa County Superintendent Denia Reese and personnel from the U.S. Navy were also on hand for the ceremony, including CAPT Douglas Fuge, himself a graduate of Annapolis.
Fuge, one of many who interviewed Craft during the arduous application process, said he felt confident that Craft could handle the day-to-day rigors of the Naval Academy, which would give him a “well-rounded education.”
“It’s intense,” said Fuge. “It’s a leadership laboratory and a place where he will grow in his leadership abilities, which he has already started to demonstrate. He’ll develop those and he’ll come out with the knowledge and the skills necessary to take a very responsible job in the Navy or the Marine Corps.”
Craft, who is also an Eagle Scout, considered Mercer, Sewanee and even Georgia, but decided to go through the application process and was offered an appointment — and a full ride — to the Academy, where he will be required to play at least one sport for the Midshipmen.
“This day is very important,” Craft said. “It’s really just one big recognition for all of your accomplishments. I’m probably going to try and walk on at a couple of different sports on the varsity Division I level. Since we already have to do one sport, I might as well give it my all.”
The only student in Heritage history to earn five varsity letters in one school year, Craft has been a school leader in student government, along with numerous other clubs and honor societies. He was a Wendy’s High School Heisman state finalist and was recently named the Most Positive Boys’ Multi-Sport Athlete in the state of Georgia by Positive Athlete Georgia, an honor which has earned him a trip to the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta for state-wide awards on June 4.
Along with being a four-year academic letter-winner with a 3.97 grade point average, Craft earned three letters in football and four each in cross country, soccer and wrestling.
He holds the Heritage record for most points ever scored by a kicker with the Generals’ football team, was named to the All-Region Team in cross country to help Heritage earn trips to the state championships and was a standout on the mat with numerous tournament, area and sectional titles to go with a pair of state runner-up finishes.
He has won state wrestling championships in freestyle and Greco-Roman and was a member of Team Georgia on three separate occasions. His name is in the Generals’ wrestling record books for most wins in a single-season (65) and in a career (204).
“At times, I had to think about whether or not I really wanted to do this,” explained Craft, who will be required to serve a minimum of five years of military service once he graduates from the Academy. “But then you think about what all you’re going to get from it, from all the people you’re going to meet to all the experiences and everything else, and I knew that I wanted to do this.”
He added that a summer seminar at the Academy was what helped him make up his mind.
“It’s a week-long thing where you basically do everything that you’re going to do at the Academy as a midshipman,” he said. “That really sealed the deal for me.”
Heritage wrestling coach Mike Craft said he was extremely proud of his son.
“This is the culmination of years, really a lifetime, of hard work,” he said. “Ryan didn’t set out doing all these various activities with the goal of the Naval Academy in mind, but with the type of person he is, he was willing to work hard, excel and do his best in all the different activities.
“When it came time and that opportunity became available, he was prepared for it. You never know what opportunities are going to be available, so you always do your best and try to excel in everything that you do.”
Craft is the first Heritage student to ever be appointed to a military academy in the 11-year history of the high school, a fact that had principal Ronnie Bradford beaming with pride.
“They are getting an incredibly well-rounded young man who makes the most of every situation,” said Bradford, noting Craft’s athletic accomplishments. “He’s going to graduate with high honors. He takes advanced placement classes. He leads and works hard wherever he is. That we’re having students leave Heritage High School with the accomplishments that Ryan has and the ability to get an appointment to a military academy, it just makes us all very proud.”
Craft says he plans to major in engineering.