Having played a game the night before, Keenan Reynolds was looking forward to a long, relaxing Labor Day weekend when he settled in front of the family television set five years ago for the first of three days of watching college football.
“I was going to watch the entire weekend before going to practice again on Monday,” he said.
The first game he flipped on was Navy at Ohio State. He had never seen Navy play, but “I thought it was an interesting matchup,” he said.
Ohio State football chat with Tim May, 1 p.m. today, dispatch.com/osuchat
More interesting than most expected, as it happened, with the Buckeyes needing an interception in the final minutes to avoid going to overtime against a three-touchdown underdog.
“It was a very rewarding game to watch,” Reynolds said.
He is hoping the rematch on Saturday holds an even greater reward for the Midshipmen.
At that point in his life, not even Reynolds, a high-school sophomore in Nashville, Tenn., knew that five years later, he would be leading Navy against No. 5 Ohio State in MT Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
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He wasn’t an option quarterback in high school. He had not yet received a recruiting letter from Navy, much less a scholarship offer. But once he did, he was intrigued.
Growing up, he had been enamored of Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators, but with him at less than 6 feet and 200 pounds, the feeling wasn’t mutual. Only Navy, Air Force, Wofford and Tennessee-Martin wanted him as a quarterback, and the more he investigated the Naval Academy, the more he was attracted.
“It was someplace I wanted to be and further my education, (it offered) endless opportunities, and they also were going to give me a chance to play Division I ball,” Reynolds said.
In two years, he has proved he can, rushing for 1,995 yards and passing for 1,955. Coach Ken Niumatalolo said Reynolds’ decision-making and “calm demeanor” set him apart from the other quarterbacks Niumatalolo has been around at the academy.
Last year, Reynolds scored more touchdowns (31) than any quarterback in NCAA history. The previous record of 27 was by Ricky Dobbs, Navy’s quarterback the day Reynolds saw them play Ohio State. Reynolds should have all of Dobbs’ records by the time he’s done at the academy.
After Navy began recruiting Reynolds, he said he followed Dobbs on Twitter, and when he took his official visit to the academy, an assistant coach introduced them over the phone. After Reynolds’ freshman year, Dobbs put Reynolds in touch with a “sponsor” family that had provided him a home away from home while he was a Midshipman.
“They’ve done a wonderful job,” said Dobbs, who keeps in touch with Reynolds. “I brag on him all the time, about how he’s broken my records and he’s my ‘sponsor brother’ and it runs in the family.”
Reynolds has a chance to one-up his “brother” again Saturday in Baltimore if he can produce an elusive win over a traditional college power. Navy has beaten Notre Dame when it was down in recent years, but the closest it has come to a true upset might have been the 31-27 loss five years ago in Ohio Stadium.
Dobbs hopes to brag on Reynolds a little more after this weekend.
“I think he definitely has the ability to shock the show there,” he said.