DULUTH — Ray Bandy wants to be a civil engineer when he grows up.
For the moment, though, the imposing soon-to-be graduate from Denfeld High School is perhaps best known as a standout offensive and defensive lineman on the school’s football team and as a strong — literally and figuratively — and helpful presence for staff and classmates. He’ll be one of about 165 Denfeld students set to receive a diploma Thursday at the school’s auditorium.
“He is a dedicated athlete and student but that is not what makes Ray special,” Geri Saari, a counselor at Denfeld, wrote to the News Tribune. “It is the way he puts his heart into everything he does and everyone he meets. … He is the first one to help lighten your load, move a table, or offer to assist when he sees a need.”
Bandy himself is much more matter-of-fact about it.
“If you see someone struggling, you go help. That’s the plain and simple of it,” he said. “When I was younger I got made fun of a lot because I was bigger. … I grew up and hit the gym a lot and can now stand up for people.”
He said he tries to take any opportunity he sees to help others.
“I’m not a small person and I’m not super weak,” Bandy said, “so I can usually help people with physical tasks.”
But it’s not all brawn: The 18-year-old who can bench press a “cool” 315 pounds also coaches a youth flag football team, has hosted tours of Denfeld for new students there, and talks shop regularly with a school custodian he befriended while heading inside from a football practice last summer.
“We talk about life and how everything’s going,” Bandy said.
Bandy is set to head to the University of Minnesota Duluth this fall to play football. He said he’s slated to be a defensive lineman. Bandy said he wanted to play for the Bulldogs at UMD or the Gophers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.
“And UMD has a phenomenal engineering program,” he told the News Tribune. “So I got the offer from them and everything fit into place.”
Originally from Northfield, Minnesota, Bandy’s dad is a construction worker and his grandfather was an architect who designed and built houses there.
“I’ve always liked math. I’ve always liked doing stuff with my hands,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do something to that effect, and civil engineering just seemed like the most interesting and the most applicable.”
Bandy credited his dad and a fitness coach in Proctor with helping him become the man he is and hopes to be.
An active churchgoer, Bandy plans to join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and says his faith is a “key principle” of who he is.
“Trying to live my life to the best of my ability, and be as nice as possible,” Bandy said. “That even goes beyond religion. That’s just kind of how I grew up.”