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July 14, 2008 2:13 pm

Air Force Academy bound

Written by Tribune Staff

Gavin Mills offers verbal commitment to Falcons
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Powell High School's Gavin Mills takes on a Jackson Bronc defender during the 2007 Season. Mills, who will be a senior at PHS this fall, announced he will continue his football and academic career at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Tribune file photo by David Dickey.
Gavin Mills, a standout defensive back and receiver for the Powell High School Panthers, put to rest the speculation about where he will continue his football career by announcing he has verbally committed to the Air Force Academy.
For Mills, the decision is another step forward in realizing an ambition he has held for many years.
“Since I was a kid, I've dreamed of playing for the Air Force Academy,” Mills said. “To me, it's one of the best and most prestigious schools, and it's a great opportunity.”
Mills chose the Air Force Academy over a host of other schools that had extended scholarship offers, including the University of Wyoming, the University of Montana and Carroll College. Other schools that pursued Mills in the past year included the University of Colorado, Colorado State University and Black Hills State University. In addition to a solid football program, Mills cited the opportunity to pursue a degree in the medical field as another deciding factor in his choice.
Last month, Mills set out on his own for a trek that included a stop at Carroll College to visit his sister, Nikki Mills. After that stop, he visited the University of Montana before venturing to Colorado Springs for a football camp conducted by the Falcons' coaching staff. During that trip, Mills said the coaching staff for the Grizzlies offered him a full scholarship. However, his time at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs helped him reach his final decision.
“I feel very blessed to have had so many opportunities,” Mills said. “That trip gave me a lot of time to think about everything. I want to be challenged, and I know the Air Force Academy will do that. I've thought about it a lot, and I feel good about my decision. I'm excited about it, and I'm looking forward to it.”
Another thing Mills feels good about is his upcoming senior season with the PHS football team. Mills and his teammates are eager to return to the field to make amends for what proved to be a difficult 2007 season in which PHS endured a 3-6 record. That mark came one year after the Panthers reached the pinnacle of the Class 4A football in Wyoming by winning the state championship.
Mills and company recently returned from a team camp at Blacks Hills State University, and he said the experience was a good one and should be a tone setter for the upcoming season.
“We did really well,” Mills said. “I think we surprised ourselves. A lot of what we're doing on offense is new to us, but everything seemed to click well for us. Last year was a tough season, but I think we'll do a lot better this time around. We've got a good group of seniors.
We're all really close, and we've got good chemistry. We aren't going to be very big, but I think we'll make up for that with our speed and aggressiveness. I think it will be a fun year.”
The good news for Mills is that the decision as to where he will pursue his college career has been made. That, he said, will eliminate something that had the potential to be a distraction during the season.
“That's a huge weight off my shoulders,” Mills said. “It's been a year since I got that first offer (from the University of Wyoming). It's been a long road, and I'm glad to get it done. Now I can focus on the upcoming season and a strong finish.”
Mills will enter the 2008 season after garnering All-State and All-Conference honors as a junior. During that campaign, he registered a team-leading five interceptions and paced the Panther defense with 16 defensive points per contest.
As a sophomore, he filled a number of key roles on both sides of the ball during the Panthers' 2006 state championship season. That year he was the Panthers' leading receiver with 24 catches for 409 yards and six touchdowns, which also placed him among the top pass catchers in the state. Defensively, he snagged four interceptions. He capped the season by earning All-State and All-Conference honors.