Keenan Reynolds is one of the greatest athletes to ever attend a service academy. Reynolds played quarterback at Navy from 2012 to 2015. He is among the ranks of Hall of Fame caliber athletes from Navy like David “The Admiral” Robinson and Roger Staubach. While his professional career is still in its infancy, Reynolds holds multiple NCAA career records. These records include most rushing touchdowns and most points scored, among many many more! Reynolds’ time at Navy was so exceptional, they announced the retirement of his number at the 2016 Navy Football Banquet, something that had never happened to a Midshipmen still attending school.
Keenan and I were teammates for four years at Navy. He agreed to an interview with me as we continue our “Where are they now?” series here at AAE. Let’s take a look at his exciting times in the NFL as a quarterback turned wide receiver and how he has kept up with the happenings at Navy.
GJ: Keeping it simple to kick it off - can you walk us through where you are today? All the way from graduating from Navy to this off-season?
KR: So before I graduated, I got drafted by the Ravens. Once graduation came, I was able to go and participate in OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and training camp with them. I got released and then signed back with them on their practice squad. Then, on the 16th game of my rookie year, they moved me up to the active roster. I wasn’t active for the game, but I was on the 53 [man roster].
I came back my second year and in the meantime, I was doing reserve work in the offseason. Then I went to camp again and got released, again. I think I spent about the first ten weeks of the NFL season as a free agent. So, pretty much I was just working out every day at home. I was also taking care of all my Navy responsibilities and staying on top of my reserve requirements [annual training and qualifications]. Then, in Week 10, the Redskins called and I worked out with them. They signed me to their practice squad and I spent the rest of the season there. At the end of the season, they decided not to resign me. So I found myself being a free agent yet again.
Coming into the next offseason as a free agent, I had a workout with Jets. They liked me, it went well, but they didn’t sign me. So, I went down to Pensacola, Florida where I was in the Cryptologic Warfare Basic School. I was there from February through early April.
While I was down there, I was training in my free time and participated in a veteran combine. The week after the combine I was invited down to Jacksonville to workout with the Jaguars. It went well, but since the draft was coming up, they wanted to wait until after that. So another month passed. I think May 15th or 16th the Seahawks called me. I went up to Seattle and did a workout and they liked me. They signed me and I went to camp, got released again, and then they signed me right back to their practice squad.
Week 2, I was called up on the active 53 roster for five weeks. Then, I moved back down to the practice squad. About eight weeks later, I was back up to the active roster for one game and went back down to the practice squad. I ended the season with Seattle on their practice squad, and they decided to bring me back and resign me again. So, I just signed a one-year deal.
I’m here this off-season. I just had January drill weekend for the Reserves. I have my February drill weekend coming up.
*Drill weekends are monthly military obligations for reserve duty members.*
Next month, I’ll be in DC doing some more Cryptologic Warfare Officer training and getting more qualifications that are due for me in 2020.
GJ: Thank you for being so thorough with all of that. I can only imagine how emotionally stressful that is, being on and off squads. But, it sounds like this season went well, especially with all the active games. It was Doug Baldwin who you stepped in for, right?
KR: Yeah, so pretty much, when he was hurt, I was up. And when he was healthy, I was on the practice squad. I had a great opportunity to learn from him, both on and off the field.
GJ: Considering that you’re busy traveling and getting ready for games on Saturday, how are you able to keep up with Navy football?
KR: If we have a home game [in Seattle], I’m usually able to catch the game. If we don’t have a home game, or I can’t catch the game, since I didn’t have cable this year, I’m usually streaming it. Otherwise, I follow it on Twitter or the ESPN app. So, I usually was able to stay up to date on all the games.
Obviously, it was a disappointing year for Navy football, but I try to keep up with them regardless. And obviously, Army-Navy, I had to watch that game. That was crazy. I watched it in the equipment room at the facilities. I could have went home and watched it, but we had just finished the Saturday walk through, and the game was starting. So, I just sat at the facility for the game.
GJ: Did anyone stick around and watch it with you?
KR: A couple people...the equipment guys were there, but for the most part, people had left and went home. Then the next day, I got a lot of trash talk from people of course.
GJ: What do you think it will take for Navy to get back on an Army-Navy winning streak?
KR: One thing people are so quick to forget is that we won fourteen years in a row, just dominating Army. Everyone has a short-term memory. We know how to win. I’m not really worried. And I think that once the coaches go back to the drawing board and regroup, they’ll get it together and start the streak again. They’re going to keep recruiting great kids, and Coach Niumat and his staff are the best in the business.
It’s just a matter of playing smart. I was watching the game and we had turnovers here and there. I’m sure there were some missed assignments. I mean it’s really simple.
GJ: Easy for you to say Navy’s offense is simple with all the records you hold and having ran it to near perfection. You mentioned Navy’s staff being the best in the business. There was a lot of turnover on the defensive staff this offseason. But, obviously you interacted mostly with the offensive staff. Do you still stay in contact with Coach Jasper and the other offensive coaches?
KR: Yea I try to keep up with Coach Jasper as much as I can, especially with what was going on with Jarren.
*Jarren Jasper, son of Navy’s offensive coordinator/quarterback’s coach, Ivin Jasper, had complications with a medical procedure due to an abnormal heart rhythm, eventually requiring a heart transplant.
I really talk to Scott [Strasemeier, Navy’s Sports Information Director]. He keeps me informed about everything Navy Football. During my bye week this past year, I was able to get to Annapolis to see the Houston game. I got to see all the coaches, all the alumni, and all the people I graduated with and hadn’t seen since graduation. So that was pretty cool to get back and watch the game, and see the boys do their thing. Everybody’s busy, both them and me, so I try to stay involved and stay on top of it.
When I saw the turnover that was going on, I was talking to Scott a lot trying to figure out who the new hires were and who they were bringing in. We’ve got a lot of new faces on the defensive side of the ball, but they have a lot of experience.
GJ: Well, since you got back to Annapolis for a game, I assume it brought back some memories and allowed to think back to your time there. Have you reflected on how the Naval Academy impacted you and how it has influenced your life today?
KR: You know, I think like it’s definitely been a huge part of where I’m at now. From a football standpoint, getting to the NFL is a direct result of the things that happened while at the Naval Academy, and the opportunity I was given to display my skills by the coaching staff. And then, also, the Navy giving me an opportunity to let me go play. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be able to chase my dream of playing in the NFL.
But not only that, the connections I’ve made, the people I’ve met, or the places I’ve been able to go to as well. Being able to go to the State of the Union [address]…I mean people have a whole life without ever doing, ever going to something like that…going to the White House three times, shaking the President’s hand (President Obama). I mean, you know, we (Keenan, myself, and the rest of our teammates) got used to doing that stuff and you look back on it and really reflect on the experiences and it’s just, wow! And the crazy part about it is, playing football kind of limited our opportunities to go and experience a lot of different things. I know a lot of people (our classmates) went overseas to study, had all kinds of interesting summer training programs, and did a whole bunch of things that, you know, the football players really didn’t get to do because of other obligations. But I mean, even still, you know, it’s a tough place to be at, but a great place to be from. I see all the young guys complaining about being ready to graduate and it just reminds you of being in the same spot three years ago and just thinking how much of a blessing that was to be able to get through that place with a painted degree.
GJ: Yeah, I agree. I had a couple question asking you to talk about advice you’d have for anyone attending the academy now, or anyone considering the academy who is still in high school, but you pretty much answered those. Going back to playing in the NFL, you and I both went to the academy with the understanding that our football careers weren’t likely to extend beyond college and into the NFL. But, yours actually did. Did you always have the NFL in mind? Or was it something that you just came up on amidst your success?
KR: I mean, growing up, it was a dream of mine. Obviously, I think a lot of guys that play football, they want to play in the NFL. It was definitely a dream of mine. But when I went to the academy, I went with the understanding, like you said, it’s probably not going to happen. And if it did happen, it would be a delayed type of thing. And even still, it would be pretty hard. So, the fact that I was able to kind of jump into it right after graduation and really pursue it, it’s just a blessing. That’s really all I can say about having the opportunity.
It didn’t really become apparent until senior year. Getting invited to the East-West Shrine Game and seeing people and talking to scouts, and really the trailblazer for us was Joe [Cardona].
*Joe Cardona is a long snapper who was drafted in the 5th round by the New England Patriots in 2015.*
Being drafted, getting the opportunity to go play and doing well [on the field], and handling all of that (Navy responsibilities paired with winning the 2017 Super Bowl with the New England Patriots) in such a graceful manner, he really opened the door for, us, me and Chris [Swain] and some other people…Joe Greenspan who went on to play pro soccer.
*Greenspan was drafted in the 2nd round of the MLS by the Colorado Rapids in 2015*
Those guys really helped us get the opportunity to explore the NFL directly after graduation. So, I’m super grateful for them and the way they handled everything. It made me feel like I can play.
And then being in the NFL, you see how hard it is. I’ve come across the paths of so many great college athletes that are in the same positions that I’m in, struggling and fighting to make a roster and to stick on a roster. It really is a tough business, and it’s not for long, for a reason.
GJ: Do you still talk to Joe at all?
KR: I haven’t really talked to him in a while. I talk to him here and there. But, during the season, we’re both pretty busy. And his season literally just ended a few weeks ago.
*Joe just won his second Super Bowl with the Patriots in three years*
GJ: Last couple of questions. Who are some of the guys in the NFL that you have become close with or made a particular connection with?
KR: In Seattle, I’ve gotten really, really close with Doug [Baldwin]. He’s definitely a mentor. And Tyler Lockett. And really all of the receivers. We were all really close over the season. It’s a tight brotherhood. We all hung out a lot outside of the facilities.
Benny Cunningham, he plays for the Chicago Bears. We were actually on the same high school team. When I was a freshman in high school, he was a senior. He went to MTSU, was with the Rams for a few years and has played with the Chicago Bears the last two years. But he’s a close friend of mine.
George Kittle, tight end for the 49ers, me and him trained together last summer and some this offseason.
GJ: He (Kittle) had a really good season!
KR: Yeah, he had a great season! There’s a few other guys. Jalen Ramsey, I actually train with his dad in the weight room.
GJ: Isn’t he from Brentwood?
*Keenan is from Antioch, Tennessee, which is about 30 minutes east of Brentwood Academy. Brentwood is one of the largest producers in the country of college football players.*
KR: Yea he went to Brentwood, went to Florida State, All-Pro, Pro Bowler for the Jags, so me and him are cool. Those are just a couple of guys I’ve gotten to know who are on the field. But some of the stuff they’re doing off the field is really inspiring.
GJ: Well alright! Thank you so much for your time. Congrats on all of your success and keep up the good work. You make us all proud. I can’t wait to catch up with you next time!