Canterbury Grad Turned Tom Cruise Stunt Double Returns to Tell Story
Lt. Commander Miles Dunford '06 made a surprise visit to his alma mater, speaking to Middle and Upper School Students about his life as a Navy fighter pilot AND being Tom Cruise's stunt double in Top Gun Maverick.
"It is so great to be back on campus with all of you," said Dunford as he opened up his speech to the students in the Murphy Sports Center (MSC).
Dunford attended Canterbury from eighth grade until graduation in 2010. He played lacrosse, soccer, served on leadership teams, and was named 'Best Smile' his senior year.
Upon graduation, Dunford took his talents to Rollins College, where he majored in psychology. He had a special message for the seniors in the audience, stressing that it is ok to not have their lives figured out.
"Raise your hand if you know what you want to do for the rest of your life yet," Dunford asked the seniors. "It is ok. You don't have to have it all figured out yet...I didn't. I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do so I just picked the easiest major for the sake of picking majors."
He went on to share how his love for being a fighter pilot was sparked when he attended a Daytona 500 race and he experienced the flyover at the beginning of the race.
"In that moment, I knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."
Dunford's journey to becoming a Navy fighter pilot began after graduating from Rollins in 2010, reporting to flight training in Pensacola, Fla. in June of 2011. He received his Wings of Gold and was designated a Navy pilot in May 2013.
Dunford served tours in Syria and Iraq before coming back to the states to attend Navy TOPGUN School in 2018 and become a strike fighter and tactics instructor. Currently, Dunford is serving as a department head aboard the NAS Lemoore in California. He is qualified as a Strike Lead Commander, a Rescue Mission Commander, a Level Five Strike Fighter Weapons and Tactics Instructor, and a Forward Air Controller.
Dunford's need for speed incidentally brought him to the big screens of Hollywood.
"I was informed one day that I would be a part of Operation Island Plaza, but didn't know anything else," Dunford explained to the students. "We (fellow Navy pilots) reported the next morning to find out we were going to be flying for the Top Gun movie... who knew on a Tuesday I would be stunt doubling for Tom Cruise."
Dunford made his big screen debut as Tom Cruise's stunt double for all flying scenes in the box office blockbuster Top Gun Maverick. Smiles and shrieks of excitement filled the MSC as Dunford detailed his exciting experiences for the students and graciously answered any questions the audience had for him.
Dunford currently resides in Hanford, Cali. with his wife, Anna, and one-year-old daughter, Isabelle.