Intense training has helped turn Navy QB Keenan Reynolds into a runner

Once known for his arm, Reynolds rushed for 226 yards and 4 TDs last week

  • Navy's Keenan Reynolds looks to break free from Hawaii's Brenden Daley during a third-quarter run.
Navy's Keenan Reynolds looks to break free from Hawaii's… (Tommy Gilligan, USA Today…)
November 15, 2013|By Don Markus | The Baltimore Sun

The roots of Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds' development in running out of his team's triple-option offense go back to his own roots outside Nashville, Tenn.

On a hot summer day when Reynolds was about 13, he joined his uncle and a group of older athletes Andrew Reynolds was training for a high school track team he coached.

"I wasn't sure what to expect, but I'll just say I couldn't finish it," Keenan Reynolds recalled this week. "I was hyperventilating. He didn't take it easy because it was my first time out. He treated me like I was a seasoned vet out there. It was really bad. We were doing hill workouts on one of the toughest hills in Nashville. It was a struggle."

The training eventually got a little easier for Reynolds, but not much more fun.

"I hated going because it was by far the hardest workouts I had ever done," said Reynolds, who still works out with his uncle when he returns home. "He really developed my explosiveness and being able to have a quicker start. My mechanics, my technique, my stamina, everything got better when I was working with him. It really got the ball rolling."

Going into Saturday's game against South Alabama at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Reynolds is coming off one of his best performances for the Midshipmen. Reynolds rushed for a career-high 226 yards and four touchdowns in last week's 42-28 home win over Hawaii. He also threw a touchdown pass in the game.

With 18 rushing touchdowns, Reynolds ranks second in the country among Football Bowl Subdivision players, one behind Colorado State tailback Kapri Bibbs. Reynolds became the first Navy player to rush for four touchdowns in a game since former quarterback Ricky Dobbs in 2009. Dobbs holds the school's single-season record of 27 rushing touchdowns.

Andrew Reynolds, a former baseball player in college who turned to running track after suffering an injury, said his nephew has continued to develop as a runner at Navy from his high school years when he also ran track. Keenan Reynolds credits Navy assistant strength and conditioning coaches Bryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Schuler for helping him become stronger and more explosive in the 18 months he has been in Annapolis.

"I worked with him on his technique and form, but what I've seen from what he's doing with Navy is that he's gotten a lot stronger," Andrew Reynolds said. "His core strength has improved dramatically.

"His upper body and hand strength have improved, and that has helped his overall running. He's one of those guys that once he can see the fruits of his labor, his confidence just soars. Running also improves your mental outlook. You get stronger mentally."

Even Keenan Reynolds' father is surprised that a player once known for his arm is now being recognized for his legs. Among Reynolds' touchdowns last week was a 67-yard sprint where he took advantage of a blitzing Hawaii defense.

"I was thinking, 'Is that my child?'" said Donnie Reynolds, a former college football player who taught and coached his oldest son the game. "He's won me over. I always thought he could run, but I didn't know if he could run that well."

Though his ability to throw might eventually separate Reynolds from some of his predecessors who played quarterback at Navy since Paul Johnson brought the triple-option there in 2002, his ability to run puts him in the conversation with a select group that have operated out of the offense.

"In this offense, you either learn how to run or you're going to struggle," Reynolds said. "That's something I had to learn very quickly and then just over time have gotten better — watching my teammates run, trying to pick up people's moves.

Reynolds said he has studied tapes of two recent Navy quarterbacks, Dobbs and Kriss Proctor.

"Just watching Ricky, he was a very physical runner," Reynolds said. "Coach [Ken Niumatalolo] always draws comparisons to him when it comes to running the mid-line option and being physical. I've watched Kriss in how quick he was on the perimeter — makes one or two cuts and he's gone."

Niumatalolo knew Reynolds could throw the ball coming out of Goodpasture Christian School in Antioch, Tenn., but he marvels at how quickly he transformed into a run-first (and often second, third and fourth down) quarterback.

"When we saw him on tape in high school, we knew he was a good throwing quarterback, but I didn't know he'd be this good running the ball," Niumatalolo said after the Hawaii game. "[Offensive coordinator] Ivin [Jasper] has done a phenomenal job with him. He runs the option as good as anybody we've had. Kaipo [Noa Kaheaku-Enhanda] and Kriss were probably the best, and he's up there with them."

Said Jasper, "He's a great thrower, but his running ability has surpassed all of our expectations."

As he typically does, Reynolds deflects much of the praise about his performance.

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