Baltimore Ravens sixth-round draft pick Keenan Reynolds, the former Navy quarterback who is being converted to wide receiver, joined
Glenn Clark Radio May 2
. After seeing video of him working with former NFL returner Brian Mitchell recently, I asked him if he thought he could step in and return punts right away.
"Well, I don't know about day one, but I'm going to step in and do what I need to do", Reynolds said. "And I'm going to keep working, you know, throughout the summer, getting ready for training camp to be completely ready to go."
It reads like a generic, canned answer. The type of thing you've heard a million times from an athlete who wants to present a public persona that makes himself a more desirable pitchman for a major corporation. An answer that sounds more like what an athlete thinks you want to hear them say and less like how they actually feel. A response so static you're not certain it actually means anything at all but instead could be just a combination of words phrased together simply to push the conversation along without any actual purpose.
To put it another way, it reads like what Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt would say if he were in the same position.
But when the athlete giving the answer is Keenan Reynolds, I suddenly feel like I'm somehow experiencing a football paradox. The answer comes off so fake, but when you consider the source, you somehow believe it to be even more valuable. Let me attempt to explain.
"He was an SID's dream," Navy senior associate athletic director Scott Strasemeier said. "I take zero credit for that -- it was all his mom and dad, the way he was raised. He's probably done about 500 interviews in his time at Navy, and not only did he never say the wrong thing, he always said the absolute best thing."
Sure, but there are plenty of athletes who can answer questions well. Why is that while others make us roll our eyes, Reynolds makes us pay attention?
"That's the way he is, there's not a fake bone in his body," Strasemeier said. "He's very genuine. He's not a boisterous guy; he's not a cocky guy at all. He's pretty much just down to business."
Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo added: "He always put team first, and that was when the cameras were on or when the cameras were off. He comes from an unbelievable family, and they raised him right. I mean, he does the right thing 100 percent of the time. Not 99 percent of the time, 100 percent of the time. That's on the field and off the field. That's just who he is."
He's … authentic. A term used so infrequently in sports these days that I struggled to come up with it while looking to explain my fascination with the top-five Heisman Trophy vote finisher.
Your humble columnist has made his affinity for the new Raven very clear through the years. I've welcomed Reynolds as a guest of my various shows on multiple occasions since I first witnessed him author a goosebump inducing fourth-quarter drive in December 2012 to rally the Midshipmen to a win against Army in Philadelphia. He was a freshman at the time. I was enthralled.
Admittedly, much of my fascination with the athlete is based on the military component. There's something especially humbling about watching a truly great athlete electrify a sold-out NFL stadium, speak to him afterward and realize that guy is willing to die for you. You know, the dopey talk show host who is going to go home and sheepishly ask his wife if she can help get the cheese sauce stain off his jacket from the disturbingly unhealthy cheesesteak dinner he wolfed down during his Philly trip.
The guy who would go on to score the most touchdowns in major football history -- that guy is willing to die for you. Describing the realization as "awe-inspiring" wouldn't remotely do it justice.
I'm not surprised the Ravens' brass found themselves in tears as they told Reynolds they were selecting him. I have no dog in the fight, and yet it was awfully dusty in my living room when a text from a friend informed me they had made the choice.
Separating Glenn Clark the football fan from Glenn Clark the football (so-called) analyst, it's the greatest selection the Baltimore Ravens have ever made. As an analyst, it's the best moment they've had (outside of finally winning a playoff game in Pittsburgh) since winning Super Bowl XLVII.
Keenan Reynolds deserved the opportunity to try to make it in the National Football League. Baltimore Ravens fans deserved an opportunity to continue to root for and support one of the most decorated college athletes in the history of our area -- who just also happens to be about the most incredible human being by all accounts from those who have most closely surrounded him.
After his answer to my punt return question, I wanted to dig deeper with Reynolds. His authenticity as a human being made me believe his deference regarding his abilities was genuine. But there had to be something, be it ping-pong, be it video games, some sort of area where he's willing to allow his ego to take flight. His response?
"Just because I don't say it, it doesn't mean I don't think it," Reynolds said.
Or, in other words, he's human. Which is good to know, because I was starting to wonder if a guy who is prepared to continue serving his country while also playing professional football was secretly Captain America.