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South 2014 graduates Caleb Cimmarrusti, left, and Josh Gray began their friendship as children in pre-school, pictured above left. Right, the friendship grew as the duo played varsity football on South's teams the past few years. Photos courtesy of the Cimmarrusti family

July 24, 2014
Good friends are hard to come by and best friends are even harder.

Grosse Pointe South 2014 graduates Caleb Cimmarrusti and Josh Gray are best friends who are now as close as brothers without actually being true brothers.

Their friendship began in pre-school. Through the years, the bond tightened as they finished elementary and middle school.

It was solid through high school as they played on the Blue Devils' football team in the fall, but chose different sports to compete in during the winter and spring months.

Through it all, Cimmarrusti and Gray, the 18-year-old soon-to-be college students, will literally run through a wall to help each other as they embark on the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

"I knew I wanted to join the military when I was in middle school," Cimmarrusti said. "I want to support my country and it is the best fit for me. I will embrace this opportunity and it will be something I will never forget since I am going through this with my friend, Josh."

"I felt called to be there," Gray said of joining the Navy. "I received lots of advice and prayers and I feel this is the best fit for me. It is reassuring to go through this experience with my best friend, Caleb."

The duo began their senior year playing on the Blue Devils' varsity football team. Both were captains.

Cimmarrusti, 6-feet, 185 pounds, was a linebacker, while Gray, 6-feet, 2-inches, 165 pounds, was a wide receiver. Both had nice statistical seasons on their side of the ball and helped the Blue Devils win a share of the Macomb Area Conference Blue Division with L'Anse Creuse North and make the state playoffs yet again.

The season ended with a loss to state power Detroit Cass Tech in the first round of the playoffs, but to make it to that point in their final year of high school football was worth the countless hours of weight lifting, running, watching game film and making plays each Friday night.

In the winter, Cimmarrusti decided to wrestle to help build a young, inexperienced South wrestling program. His father, Tony, took the job as head coach when the team needed a leader as the head coaching position was vacant just a week before the season started.

"I took a beating early and lost a lot of matches, but I picked up the pace in the second half of the season and won most of my matches," Cimmarrusti said. "It was a good learning experience for me, and I enjoyed the wrestling team."

The Blue Devils went on to surprise everyone by winning a share of the MAC Silver Division with St. Clair Shores Lakeview and went on to win the league meet championship by only 2.5 points over Center Line.

Gray turned heads, too, when he was named a starter on the varsity basketball team under first-year head coach Troy Glasser.

Gray, the small forward/shooting guard, embraced his role and helped lead the Blue Devils to a share of the MAC Blue Division crown with New Haven. Gray did it on both ends of the court, playing tight defense and scoring some big baskets as he helped turn a bad basketball team into a winner in just one season.

"I had a very good basketball season, and it was fun to win games and challenge for a division title after the tough year we had my junior year," Gray said. "I felt I worked hard in the off-season for coach Glasser, and we used that hard work to win a lot of basketball games."

In the spring, Gray ran track, while Cimmarrusti played his favorite sport, lacrosse. He helped the boys' lacrosse team win another share of a division title, the MAC Red with Utica Eisenhower, plus win a couple of state playoff games.

He was a defender and earned Second Team All-State (Third Team All-State as a junior) and All-Conference. He was also Academic All-American and the Blue Devils' defensive most valuable player for a second time.

Cimmarrusti was named South's male Athlete of the Year, while Gray was named Detroit Free Press Scholar Athlete of the Year for Grosse Pointe South and the school's Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Through four years of being student-athletes at South, the duo will amp the effort tenfold when they enter the Naval Academy.

According to the Naval Academy web-site, undergraduates become professional officers of competence, character and compassion in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Students are midshipmen on active duty in the U.S. Navy. They attend the Academy for four years, graduating with Bachelor of Science degrees and then commissioning as Ensigns in the Navy or Second Lieutenants in the Marine Corps. Naval Academy graduates serve at least five years in the Navy or Marine Corps.

"I'm more than ready for this commitment," Gray said. "I have been working hard to get to this point and I am ready for the next chapter in my life."

"This is something I have thought about since the seventh grade, and it is finally a reality," Cimmarrusti said. "I'm ready to serve my country."

The workouts consist of body weight resistance, timed workouts, speed explosion exercises and endurance training.

Gray and Cimmarrusti have worked on the Academy's workout routine during the early summer in preparation for the Navy's version of boot camp called Plebe summer.

Both are physically and mentally prepared for the challenge ahead of them and after Plebe summer is the beginning of the first semester of classes.

Cimmarrusti is trying out for the men's lacrosse team, while Gray is doing the same for the men's basketball squad. If they don't make it, either or both can play the sport they enjoy at the club level.

In the early years, Gray attended the Grosse Pointe Academy before Grosse Pointe South.

Cimmarrusti's trek was a little different. He was home schooled from kindergarten through third grade, went to Grosse Pointe Academy from fourth through sixth grade, home schooled for seventh grade and went to Brownell Middle School for eighth grade before Grosse Pointe South.

Each said their shining moment at South was beating Grosse Pointe North on the gridiron their senior season, knowing it was the last time they got to face their cross-town rival.

Through thick and thin, Cimmarrusti and Gray are brothers who will encourage each other through the Naval Academy.

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