When Scottsdale native Grayson Beaux Naquin graduated from Notre Dame Preparatory High School in 2015 and was recruited to play Division 1 soccer for the U. S. Military Academy West Point, he admits he was conflicted about accepting the offer.
“Most of my friends were staying local, and I wanted a normal college experience,” he said.
Naquin turned to prayer, and that, ultimately, led him to his final decision.
“I called the coach on the spot and said, ‘I want to play for you,’” he recalled. “I would say that I went to West Point for the wrong reason, but I stayed for the right reason.”
And now, four years later, Naquin has graduated from West Point — not only as captain of the men’s soccer team, but also as a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society.
“Managing the military academy on top of playing NCAA soccer was hard, but it was the most rewarding experience of my life and no other university can emulate that. West Point taught me that we are capable of so much more than we think,” he said.
Naquin was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army within the Army Aviation branch and will report to Fort Rucker, Alabama, for his first assignment.
“The Army is an organization of camaraderie and commitment toward defending the Constitution. That is of the utmost importance and an Army career is one of the most important occupations in the county — and the world, for that matter. And in my opinion, one of the coolest jobs, too,” he said.
A total 1,000 cadets graduated from West Point this year.
This was West Point’s most diverse graduating class in the military academy’s 217-year history, with a record number of women, people of color and latinx graduating.
While at West Point, Naquin concentrated his studies in management.
“There was a lot of trial and error and a lot of growth that took place through classes and assignments. It was a journey that I didn’t do on my own, but it took a leap of faith to commit to the process,” he said.
Naquin added: “I definitely felt God’s presence throughout my journey, but there were times when I felt like I was in the valley, trying to make it back to the peaks.”
Naquin relied on his peers to help him through times of doubt.
“Also, my mentors, who didn’t really say anything, but were so inspirational and successful that I envied the caliber of their character and I want to grow and try to succeed as they did,” he said.
Naquin particularly looks forward to flying the Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter while stationed at Fort Rucker.
“Being able to fly some of the aircraft that the Army owns is going to be some of the most surreal experiences of my life – but also the privilege of working in an organization with the aforementioned camaraderie,” he said.
West Point helped Naquin prepare for his future by molding him into a leader.
“West Point puts you in a lot of positions where you are in leadership roles and you have to deal with peers, subordinates and superiors on a very professional basis. Those are situations that are hard to emulate,” he said.
Naquin added: “I’ve been put in a lot of uncomfortable and hard positions, and that is how you grow. I was proudly put in uncomfortable positions at the academy about 99 percent of the time, and I’m thankful for it.”
Naquin’s father, Gary Naquin, personally witnessed Grayson’s transformation while at West Point, and Gary said he now better appreciates the men and women in the military.
“While not personally from a family with military experience or background, I now better appreciate those men and women who, in the history of the America, have stepped forward, accepted and continued to set the standard, and agreed to stand in the gap between America and our adversaries to defend the constitution of the United States,” Gary said.
Gary said he’s confident his son will accomplish his goals, moving forward.
“Grayson often says to his mother and [me], ‘Do not worry about me. My heart is full, I have important work to do and I want to see the world,’” he said.
“Those who truly know Grayson understand how he treasures deep and meaningful friendships [and] teammates, understand his humility and acceptance of others, and also sense his willingness and ability, as a leader, to have the back of anyone unwilling or unable to defend themselves,” Gary said.
George Prelock was Grayson’s football coach at Notre Dame Prep. Grayson was a kicker.
“I am incredibly proud of Grayson,” Prelock said. “He is an outstanding young man who has been able to accomplish so much. He is a great representation of our NDP community.”