Navy's Keenan Reynolds wants NFL opportunity, no matter the position

Former Navy star Keenan Reynolds is prepared to play positions other than quarterback in the NFL. Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Keenan Reynolds could find himself in any number of places this fall: stationed on a boat or a submarine, connected to a special warfare division like the SEALs or attached to an aviation squadron.

Or at the headquarters of an NFL team.

The Navy quarterback is heading toward graduation and a service assignment as an information warfare officer. But if an NFL team drafts or signs Reynolds, the Navy could decide he would benefit the military with the profile that comes with playing professional football.

A sampling of personnel folks around the league suggest Reynolds will have an opportunity.

"An unbelievable kid," one NFL personnel man said of Reynolds. "Free-agent project. Position change. Someone might take him late."

"More quick than fast," a second scout said. "Highly productive college player that will have to make a position change in the NFL. Very smart, competitive athlete. He will get a shot as a running back and slot receiver, and possibly some returns."

Reynolds set FBS records for career touchdowns (88) and rushing yards by a quarterback (4,559). Still, he was snubbed for the NFL scouting combine, failing to earn one of roughly 332 invitations.

So the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Reynolds spent his evenings training for his pro day with Justin Kavanaugh of the Sport and Speed Institute in Chantilly, Virginia, carrying himself as if he were going to the combine.

"There are no surprises, but I was obviously upset. I wanted to be there," Reynolds said. "I continued to use it as fuel, work as hard as I could to prove that I belong."

On March 18 he participated at Navy's pro day. He tweaked his hamstring running his 40 (with times of 4.53 and 4.56 seconds) and had to back off much of the other work. On March 30, he did his football stuff, working out as a receiver, quarterback, punt returner and running back.

Seventeen teams watched, a number Reynolds said was surprising to him and qualified as "pretty awesome."

He has had plenty of conversations with teams about how they see him in the NFL, with slot receiver atop the list. It's what he expected and what he feels most comfortable with, he said. Only one or two talked about playing quarterback.

"I certainly do believe I can be an NFL quarterback," he said. "But it's a matter of, who wants to see me at that position? And whatever they want to see me as, that's what I am going to be doing.

"It doesn't bother me if I don't play quarterback anymore. My goal is to just help my team. Whatever I can do to be a successful member of a team, to help them win, it's OK with me."

Reynolds, from Goodpasture Christian High School in Madison, Tennessee, played in his home state's East-West All-Star Game as a receiver. Since then he has been a full-time quarterback in Navy's triple option, playing a position that's far different at the pro level.

He can rattle off a list of things he needs to learn to make the transition to slot receiver: "Route-running, getting off coverage, knowing where the defender is playing, knowing different coverages, defenses, route concepts, where the holes are, where the throwing lanes are."

He was part of the group of local prospects the Tennessee Titans hosted Friday at team headquarters.

"He's a good football player who comes from a really good program at Navy and a really good high school program," said Titans general manager Jon Robinson, who started out at the Air Force Academy before attending Southeastern Missouri. "Having spent a brief time at a service academy myself, I really respect what he's been able to accomplish on the field and in his service to the country with his dedication.

"That's a tough, tough program and I admire his ability not only to complete it, but thrive in it."

Robinson borrowed a designation the Jacksonville Jaguars used for former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson when they drafted him, tabbing Reynolds an "offensive weapon" rather than projecting him to one position.

Reynolds' fate at the end of the month is a crapshoot, he said, but he and his agents have spoken with teams who project him as a mid- to late-round pick or free agent.

The Navy gets a five-year service commitment from Reynolds in exchange for his undergraduate education. Reynolds is eager to do the work.

"One thing I've said throughout this entire process is how important service is to me," he said. "It's the reason why I came to the academy. The big thing is that we have a guy who's pretty much the model officer, he's doing everything he's doing on the Navy side of things and he's also got the opportunity to play in the NFL while serving. If I'm lucky, maybe I'll get the opportunity."

That guy is Joe Cardona. The New England Patriots drafted him in the fifth round last year out of the Naval Academy, and he played in all 16 games of his rookie season as the team's long-snapper. He split his time between the Patriots and military duty at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island.

Some teams could be reluctant to spend even a late pick on a player who might not be available to play right away. But Reynolds is keenly aware of what the Patriots did.

"They took Joe and they kind of know how the process works, and there are other teams who have taken service academy guys, understanding completely how the process works," Reynolds said. "I think that it something that will sort itself out with time."

If Reynolds has his NFL chance, the Navy will determine if he can take it. Service academy athletes in pro sports have often served as excellent PR and advertising for the schools.

"That's definitely up to the Navy; we have to meet," Reynolds said. "But I'm happy either way. I know what I signed up for and service is paramount. If I get my opportunity to do both, then so be it. If not and they want me to do what I signed up to do, do my time first, then so be it as well. I knew what I was getting myself into when I came here."