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Leonard and Michelle Cummings with their son, Trey.

Leonard and Michelle Cummings with their son, Trey. (GoFundMe)

(Tribune News Service) — When Kip Frankland was selected to wear jersey No. 68 in honor of the late David Forney, he took the opportunity to pay it forward.

Navy offensive line coaches Ashley Ingram and Danny O'Rourke suggested Frankland pass down his No. 66 to a younger offensive lineman as a means of encouragement. The senior offensive tackle loved the idea and knew exactly the right person.

Frankland asked freshman tackle Trey Cummings to take one of the primary numbers traditionally worn by the upperclassmen within Navy's offensive line unit. Cummings is the midshipman whose mother was killed in Annapolis by stray bullets from a drive-by shooting.

Michelle Jordan Cummings was in town to attend Induction Day at the Naval Academy as her son was starting Plebe Summer. She was fatally shot on June 29 while sitting in a patio area outside The Graduate Hotel.

Angelo Harrod was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Cummings, who was not the intended victim. Annapolis police said Harrod fired a volley of bullets intended for a man and woman who were sitting in a vehicle near a dead-end on Pleasant Street.

Despite the senseless tragedy, Leonard "Trey" Cummings III chose to remain at the Naval Academy and is on pace to complete his plebe year. The 6-foot-1, 265-pound freshman performed well during spring camp and is listed third on the depth chart at left tackle.

Frankland, blessed with a warm and engaging personality, took the lead as all the offensive linemen wrapped their collective arms around Cummings. Before spring practice, Cummings was assigned a locker nearby Frankland's.

"After Trey's mom passed away during plebe summer, we wanted to get close to him and make him feel at home," Frankland said. "I took it upon myself to get to know Trey and make him feel welcome in our room.

"Now that he's sitting two lockers down, we're even closer. I talked to Trey every day and we're pretty good friends now."

Cummings acknowledged being taken aback by Frankland's gesture, which was completely unexpected. However, he immediately understood the meaning behind it and was humbled to be singled out for the honor.

"I'm not going to lie, when Kip told me I was getting his number I kind of got goosebumps," Cummings said.

"I felt really good about it. I told Kip I was going to take pride in the number and keep the legacy going of No. 66. I think it's just about coming to work every day and grinding."

Cummings was asleep in a dormitory room inside Bancroft Hall when his mother was killed. He was roused by a Naval Academy officer and informed of the news.

"It was a shock waking up at 4 a.m. and hearing my mom passed away from something that's really unheard of," he said.

Naval Academy leaders excused Cummings from Plebe Summer activities for as long as necessary and many within the football program were uncertain whether he would remain at the institution. After a period of mourning and many long discussions with his father and namesake, Cummings chose to move forward with his indoctrination training.

Cummings expressed thanks for the dozens of cards and letters of support he received from members of the Annapolis community along with persons affiliated with the Naval Academy and U.S. Navy.

"It was a long process, and the reason I stayed is because of the brotherhood here. I think of all this — players and coaches — as family," he said. "I just thought of playing football here as something that helps me get through life. It's the same thing as academics; something to motivate and keep me going."

O'Rourke specifically coaches the Navy offensive tackles, so he felt a strong responsibility to do whatever possible to help Cummings get through the ordeal. The 21-year Navy assistant praised the maturity of the plebe, calling his ability to stay positive despite dealing with every child's nightmare awe-inspiring.

O'Rourke admitted he could not have handled the athletic, academic and military demands that overwhelm most plebes at the academy in the wake of losing a parent. There were times this summer when the coach "shook my head in wonderment" that Cummings was thriving in football and the classroom while in mourning.

"Trey is probably one of the most amazing young men I've ever been around my entire life," O'Rourke said. "What he's gone through is unspeakable and unbelievable. To handle it the way he has is just remarkable. I just can't say enough about the young man."

Naturally, O'Rourke was thrilled Frankland elected to uplift a young teammate who has endured tragedy and heartbreak. "It just shows the selflessness of Kip, who sees a lot of himself in Trey as far as wanting to work hard," O'Rourke said.

Last Monday, Navy football publicly announced the decision to have Frankland wear No. 68 in honor of Forney and that he, in turn, had passed down No. 66 to Cummings. Forney's father was pleased to learn the new tradition had spawned an offshoot recognition and praised the coaching staff for coming up with the idea.

"It shows you what type of program Navy football is, and the type of people Ken Niumatalolo and his assistants are. These kids are very important to them. To put so much thought into this is amazing," Rick Forney said.

"I'm thankful David got a chance to be part of that program and the Navy Football Brotherhood and I'm grateful the coaching staff and players continue to honor him in this way."

(c)2022 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.)

Visit The Capital (Annapolis, Md.) at www.hometownannapolis.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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