Keenan Reynolds: From Naval Academy to the NFL

For Keenan Reynolds, playing in the NFL is not just a dream come true; its a privilege.

In attending the Naval academy, serving the United States was Reynolds’ top priority, not playing football. Football is an activity that Reynolds took part in to go along with his service to the nation. Playing on Navy’s football team means that hopes of playing in the NFL may have to be put on hold or let go altogether. Football is just a sport, and some things in life are much more important than playing a game.

Growing up in Antioch, Tennessee, Reynolds started playing football at age five. The passion for the game lasted all throughout Reynolds’ childhood. Attending Madison Goodpasture Christian High School, his team won two district championships in his time with the team. He started all four years and also ran track for the school. Reynolds excelled in the classroom, joining the National Honor Society and graduating with four varsity letters.

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After high school, Reynolds decided to enroll in the Naval Academy as well as continue his football career. At Navy, Reynolds became the starting quarterback four games into his freshman year and remained the starter for the rest of his collegiate career. Over four seasons Reynolds both passed and ran for 4,000 yards. Through the air Reynolds threw for 4,001 yards with 31 touchdown passes against eight interceptions. Rushing, Reynolds recorded 4,559 yards with 88 touchdowns.

Reynolds set a number of records during his time at Navy. His 78th rushing touchdown broke the record for most rushing touchdowns in FBS (NCAA Div. 1 Football Bowl Subdivision) history. Finishing with 85 rushing scores overall, Reynolds ran for the most touchdowns in NCAA Division 1 history. Aside from his statistical records, Reynolds was named the 2015 AAC Offensive Player of the Year, a 2015 Third-Team All-American, and his number 19 jersey will be retired by the Navy Midshipman.

On the third day of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens drafted Reynolds in the sixth round (182nd overall). Reynolds is the 19th Midshipmen to have been drafted into the NFL, and the first to be drafted by Baltimore.

With his time to the Navy still on the horizon, the Ravens were not sure if Reynolds would even get a chance to play a snap in 2016 until the end of May. The United States Secretary of Defense gave Reynolds a signed waiver to play football, placing him in the Navy Reserves. Reynolds has to complete two days of service a month for the next eight years, but the waiver gave the Ravens a green light to include Reynolds in their plans for training camp. Camp for Baltimore starts on July 28.

Preparing for the 2016 NFL Draft, Reynolds spent time working out for several teams at a new position; wide receiver. In his collegiate career, Reynolds has only has a single 47-yard reception under his belt. Making a positional change for any athlete no matter what sport is never easy. In the NFL, there have been a few players that have made the transition from quarterback to receiver, Terrelle Pryor being the most recent example.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Minicamp

“Getting my legs used to [the change] and getting into good shape have been my biggest physical challenges so far,” Reynolds told me in a sit-down interview. “Now, it’s all about technique. I have a lot to learn, a lot to work on and I am just going to continue to grind every day.”

The 5’11”, 185 pound rookie has been welcomed to Baltimore with open arms, and Ravens fans are hoping to see Reynolds make a contribution to the team in 2016. The Ravens are loaded at the wide receiver position; a group that already includes:

  • Steve Smith Sr., a 37-year-old veteran returning from an Achilles tear
  • Kamar Aiken, a journeyman who had a breakout season for the Ravens in 2015, leading the team with 944 receiving yards
  • Mike Wallace, a 2011 Pro-Bowler who tallied a career-low 473 receiving yards in 2015 with the Minnesota Vikings
  • Breshad Perriman, the 2015 first-round pick by Baltimore who missed the entire 2015 season with a partially-torn PCL and may miss the start of training camp or season with an ACL injury
  • Chris Moore, a fourth-round draft pick out of Cincinnati
  • Others, including Jeremy Butler, Chris Matthews, Michael Campanaro, and Daniel Brown

Kick & punt returner is another position the Ravens are envisioning Reynolds taking on, but Reynolds has never been a returner before in his football career.

Being a sixth-round pick, making a positional change and joining an already-loaded receiving corps is a tough hill to climb for Reynolds as the Ravens get ready to start training camp. However, Reynolds is excited for the opportunity and is ready to take on the impending challenges.

“I want to be on the team and contribute,” Reynolds said.

A short statement, but a clear message. Reynolds buys into and fits Baltimore’s “Play like a Raven” mentality, and he should fit in fine with what the Ravens are trying to accomplish. 2016 will be a year of transition for Reynolds as he switches positions and adapts to the pro game. The opportunity is there, and Reynolds is ready to show that the Ravens made a great choice in using a draft pick on him.

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