Navy’s Reynolds switches from QB to RB for East-West game
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Keenan Reynolds has learned to adapt to a lot of different situations while playing football at Navy, so he hardly lacks confidence he can handle his latest challenge.
The dual-threat quarterback broke the NCAA Division I record for career rushing touchdowns while leading the Midshipmen the past four seasons but is making the transition this week to running back and kick returner in hopes of impressing pro scouts at Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.
Reynolds rushed for 1,373 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior, helping Navy to an 11-2 record and finishing his college career with 4,559 yards and 88 rushing TDs.
The native of Antioch, Tennessee, only attempted 115 passes in 2015, throwing for 1,203 yards, eight TDs and one interception — effective with the Midshipmen, though not the type of production that suggests he has a future as a passer.
Now he’s at the East-West game, trying to prove he has the versatility to play other positions.
“It’s been going well. I’m learning a lot, learning something new every day,” Reynolds said. “This was my first time fielding kicks, too, and I’m happy to have a great coach like Troy Brown helping and teaching me things I would have never known to look for.”
Reynolds said he wants to add some weight to his 5-foot-10, 195-pound frame and has working on his footwork daily with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott, the running backs coach for the East team.
He’s also learning to run pass routes out of the backfield.
“I’m trying to show people I can catch the ball,” Reynolds said. “That was another knock on me.”
Even if Reynolds impresses scouts enough that he winds up being selected in the NFL draft, there’s no guarantee he will be excused from his military commitments to continue his football career.
Reynolds said his commitment to the Naval Academy is his top priority and that potentially unique situations such as he could face are decided on a case by case basis.
“That’s a decision for someone with much higher authority to make. I have no say in that,” Reynolds said. “I love being in the Navy. It’s helped make me the person I am today. Right now, I’m out here trying to get better.”
Reynolds is one of more than 100 players hoping to improve their draft stock in the 91st East-West game.
Oregon’s Vernon Adams Jr. is another prospect trying to prove he has a future as a pro. At 5-11, he’s the shortest quarterback playing in Saturday’s game, but also was a two-time finalist for the Walter Payton Award as the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision while playing at Eastern Washington.
Adams finished his college career as a graduate transfer, throwing for 26 touchdowns in 2015.
“I want to show everyone I can play quarterback at the next level,” Adams said. “I can make plays. I played against top competition. Scouts see my arm, they know about my ability to extend plays.”
Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty and Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld are the other quarterbacks for the West. Michigan’s Jake Rudock, Wisconsin’s Joel Stave and Massachusetts-Amherst’s Blake Frohnapfel are on the East roster.