“The Heisman memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” –from the Heisman Trust mission statement.

Keenan Reynolds will not win the Heisman Trophy. That much is certain. The finalists for the annual award are Alabama’s Derrick Henry, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Saturday night, at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York, one of those three young men will take home the most coveted individual award in all of college athletics. That’s okay, though, because Reynolds, the record-breaking senior quarterback of the United States Naval Academy, will be busy that day. As he has since his freshman year, Keenan Reynolds will line up under center for Navy, spearheading head coach Ken Niumatalolo’s potent triple option offense, trying to get one last win against Navy’s forever brother/rival, the United States Military Academy.

I love that the Army-Navy game has its own date on the college football calendar, after all the conference championship games. I like watching a game and cheering for every single player on the field, as I know they’ll finish their college careers and go straight into the business of keeping all of us safe as officers in the United States military for (at least) the next five years. It is pageantry devoid of cynicism. It’s the best possible combination of football and patriotism, and Keenan Reynolds will start the biggest game on both teams’ schedules for the fourth year in a row. That, in and of itself, is an amazing stat. Freshman year at the service academies is always the toughest for any student. They’re getting used to being a full-time student AND an active duty member of the US military. Freshmen aren’t really expected to have it all together enough to get playing time during plebe year. But to play quarterback? In this system that puts the entire offense into the hands (and eyes, and mind) of the quarterback? That’s almost unthinkable. Not only did Keenan Reynolds start the final eight games of his freshman year, he helped lead Navy to a comeback win over Army. On Saturday, he has the opportunity to become the first quarterback to record four consecutive wins in the history of the Army-Navy game.


I am not going to make the argument that Keenan Reynolds should win the Heisman Trophy. I believe that what Keenan Reynolds accomplished over his collegiate career deserves something more than the Heisman Trophy. Let’s start with some of his career numbers. The most impressive, of course, is his NCAA record 83 career rushing touchdowns (and counting). No one in the history of major college football has run for more touchdowns than Keenan Reynolds. He’s scored three or more touchdowns in 15 games over the course of his college career, also a record. His 30 career wins are the most in Navy history, with a chance to win two more. He isn’t asked to pass the ball very often, but when he does, he’s proven more than capable. Reynolds has thrown 29 touchdown passes in his Navy career, the most in the academy’s history. Most people would suspect Roger Staubach held that record. Somehow, the previous record holder is someone even MORE impressive: Reynolds broke the record of Bill Byrne. Byrne’s current title? Commander of US Naval Forces in Korea. Prior to that, Byrne served as Commandant of Midshipmen. Reynolds has phenomenal numbers across the board. Maybe most impressively, Navy is 9-2 this year, and currently ranked 21st in the country. If they beat Army, and then beat Pitt in the Military Bowl, Navy will finish as a ranked team for the first time since 2004 (and only the second time since 1963).

I don’t think Keenan Reynolds should win the Heisman. I think he should be the first recipient of a new honor: call it the Keenan Reynolds Service Award. This newly-created award would go to a senior that truly represents the ideals of excellence and integrity that the Heisman Trust purports to recognize (remember, Jameis Winston and Johnny Football won that trophy), while also factoring in on-field performance, leadership, and service to a program. Out of this year’s Heisman finalists, none are seniors. McCaffrey and Watson are sophomores, Henry is a junior. Troy Smith, in 2006, is the only senior to win the Heisman since 2003. Shouldn’t there be an award that recognizes guys who have put in the time and the energy over the course of four years, making a lasting impact on the program and the greater community? This new award wouldn’t necessarily be given out every year, only when there is a senior worthy of the honor.

I know Pitt fans are a little disappointed that their team is heading to the Military Bowl. I understand their reasons, but I hope they appreciate their opponent. Not only is Annapolis a gorgeous town and a great place to visit, but anyone that attends that game will be witness to the final game of a singularly impressive college career, one that should be recognized, and celebrated. Keenan Reynolds won’t play in the NFL. He’ll be doing work of significantly greater importance than that. But he’s a heck of a football player, and his collegiate career is one that should be recognized, and his name should be associated with the very best leaders that college football has ever produced.

Posted in College Sports