Will Keenan Reynolds' Military Obligation Keep Him From Playing?


The most emotional moment of draft weekend for the Ravens was a memorable phone call in the sixth round to Navy's Keenan Reynolds. Ozzie Newsome talked with him about playing wide receiver and returner for the Ravens, and Reynolds told the Ravens they would not regret drafting him.

Reynolds and the Ravens have high hopes for what he can bring to the team, but perhaps the biggest question is when he'll get a chance to do that.

As a graduate of the Naval Academy, Reynolds is obligated to a five-year military term. The military requires graduates to go directly into active duty, which may prevent Reynolds from playing this fall. The Navy could also work out an arrangement where he balances his NFL schedule with full-time military requirements.

"It's a case-by-case deal, and the Navy is going to do what they feel is best and put me where they need to put me," Reynolds said.

There is a recent precedent that gives the Ravens optimism. The New England Patriots drafted long snapper Joe Cardona last year, and he was granted permission to play. In order to make that arrangement work, Cardona spent one day a week working at a naval facility in Rhode Island. He also spent evenings on the job for the Navy.

"I'm hoping and praying, and I'm confident that this potentially could be the same type of situation with myself," Reynolds said.

Getting drafted by a team in close proximity to the Naval Academy could also help Reynolds' cause.

The exact timetable on a final decision is unclear, but he expects to hear from the Navy within the next few days. It's possible he could get handed a two-year active duty assignment that would keep him from playing in the NFL.

Former Navy athletes like quarterback Roger Staubach and NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson had to go that route.  Staubach was drafted by the Cowboys in 1964, but didn't play professionally until completing his military commitment and resigning from the Navy five years later. Robinson was the first overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Draft, but first had to serve two years in the military.

"The policy that is driven by the Secretary of the Navy is one that we follow here," said Vice Admiral Ted Carter, Superintendent of the Naval Academy. "More than likely, Keenan will associate with a team if he is drafted, and then serve actively for two years. And then he can go into reserves status for the rest of his commitment."

The Ravens knew there was uncertainly with Reynolds' status when they drafted him with the No. 182 overall pick. Head Coach John Harbaugh said he's "hopeful" Reynolds will be able to play, and joked that the Ravens have "always been supporters of the military."

But the decision is ultimately out of their hands, and the military holds final say on the matter.

"We can't predict what they'll do. It'll be whatever is in the best interest of the Naval Academy, the Navy and the nation," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, there's precedent, so we're hopeful. Whatever they do, we'll abide by and respect. We understand how that works. He's just a fine young man.

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