World Traveler: McCaffrey heads to Japan, U.S. Naval Academy up next
While most of his classmates spend Spring Break going to the movies, hanging out with friends, playing video games or even taking in some of the NCAA Tournament, Plano Senior senior Daniel McCaffrey will be in Japan.
McCaffrey is known for his wrestling exploits, having placed at state two weeks ago.
However, he has also been training in martial arts, with an emphasis on Tae Kwon Do and jiu-jitsu, since he was five. McCaffrey, who is also an Eagle Scout, earned his black belt in Tae Kwon Do before he was nine. When McCaffrey's trainer Stacey Fox mentioned a trip to Japan to train in ninjutsu, the senior jumped at the opportunity.
"I thought it would be a really cool trip," McCaffrey said, "and a great opportunity to see a whole other side of the world."
But what McCaffrey sees after flying in to Tokyo, may be limited to the inside of training rooms.
"There might be a little time to go out and see the sights, especially that first day," he said, "but this trip is mainly to train and learn a new art."
That McCaffrey would devote such time to a discipline isn't surprising considering he has been working on improving his wrestling since he was young.
"Danny has always been a goal setter and driven," said Richard McCaffrey, Daniel's father. "One of his youth soccer coaches wrote in a recent recommendation letter that Danny was one of the most focused and inner-driven people she's ever known."
Those qualities have served McCaffrey well as he was appointed to and will continue his wrestling career at the United States Naval Academy.
Mr. McCaffrey attended Purdue on an ROTC scholarship and served as a naval fight officer for 10 years.
"My dad was in the Navy, so that is what sparked my interest because I wanted to be like him," McCaffrey said. "And as I got older, I realized the military really was where I wanted to be. You have all those people working toward the same goal and that is an atmosphere I want to be a part of."
But just deciding he wanted to be in the armed forces wasn't going to be enough.
"It's hard for folks who haven't been through the process to understand just how competitive the service academies are," Mr. McCaffrey said.
More than 17,000 students apply each year with only 4,200 garnering a nomination (which frequently comes from a congressman or senator and is needed to move forward). Of those 4,200, only 1,400 will be offered appointment. Working on the process since the start of his junior year, McCaffrey got his nomination, clearing the way for his appointment, this past Thanksgiving break.
"All our family was together for the holidays, so I let everyone know immediately," McCaffrey said. "It was such a great personal feeling and I'm glad I had everyone there to share it with."
That sense of pride spanned across the family.
"It took a lot of effort, hard work and sacrifice to see these things happen," Mr. McCaffrey said. "And Lori (Daniel's mother) and I were so happy to see all that pay off."
The nation's service academies are seeking well-rounded students and McCaffrey fits the bill.
All six of the Plano wrestlers that advanced to the regional tournament, including McCaffrey, have a GPA of at least 3.7 with half of them ranked in the top 10 percent of their class. McCaffrey will need to keep up that strong academic pace as he is planning on majoring in engineering in college with a focus on the aeronautical or mechanical fields. Following graduation, he would like to go into the Navy SEALs.
McCaffrey should be an asset to the Midshipmen on the mat as well.
Named a captain of the wrestling team as a junior, the 182-pound McCaffrey also enjoyed that status as a senior and responded by being one of two Wildcats (along with junior Michael Kubik) to reach at least 40 wins, a mark no Plano pair had reached in more than a decade. McCaffrey went 41-9 this season en route to finishing as the District 17 runner-up, winning the Region III Meet and placing fifth at the UIL State Wrestling Tournament.
Varsity wrestling season has concluded, but McCaffrey continues to work.
"I'm doing freestyle and Greco training this spring," he said.
McCaffrey feels those disciplines, along with his Spring Break training in Japan, will make him better suited for the next chapter of his life, which begins in June.
"Lori and I can't express the pride we have in Danny's appointment to United States Naval Academy," Mr. McCaffrey said. "It's an honor few will be afforded, and although it means we get only six weeks a year with him after he leaves, we're overwhelmed by the future that lies before him."