Keenan Reynolds was never going to win the Heisman Trophy. That’s not my dispute with the Heisman Trust excluding the Navy quarterback from this weekend’s ceremony, which invited finalists Derrick Henry, Deshaun Watson and Christian McCaffrey Monday.
Any one of Henry, McCaffrey or Watson would be a fine representative of the award, and all three check off the boxes that past Heisman precedent says are necessary for voters’ consideration. To that end, early ballots favor the three, which is why they’re the only finalists bound for New York on Saturday.
Again, no quarrels there.
But, as someone with a childlike fascination and interest in the award, I’m disappointed in Keenan Reynolds’ exclusion from the ceremony. I attribute the 1993 season as the first in which I really closely followed college football, but my interest in the Heisman Trophy dates back a few years earlier.
Yes, it’s backwards, but I followed the Heisman race more intently than the overall college football landscape as a young boy. I credit (blame?) my dad’s incredulous response to Eric Bieniemy finishing behind Rocket Ismail and Ty Demter in 1990. Coincidentally, that was the penultimate year a service academy player finished in the Heisman balloting top 10 (Army running back Mike Mayweather).
I see the award as a snapshot of college football as it exists in any given year. The Heisman and its finalists make a time capsule, which tells the story of the game. For example, Heisman finishes of the late 1980s and into the 1990s represent a new era in special teams play and recognition of its importance, evident in Desmond Howard and Tim Brown’s wins, and Ismail’s runner-up finish in ’90.
To exclude Keenan Reynolds from the time capsule is to miss an opportunity to capture an important chapter of today’s game.
Reynolds has grown into the face of a decade-long process at Navy, beginning under Paul Johnson and continuing under Ken Niumatalolo, that has made the Academy a perennial player in college football. The option offense, which Eric Crouch rode to the 2001 Heisman, is rare in today’s spread-dominated landscape. But for Navy, and a handful of other programs, it’s become the great equalizer.
And no one mastered the option quite as effectively as Reynolds since Crouch in his ’01 campaign. His illustrious, four-year career will end in two games with the quarterback sporting NCAA records for rushing touchdowns, and touchdowns scored from scrimmage. The previous mark was held by a Heisman finalist: former Wisconsin running back Montee’ Ball.
A place on the Heisman dais would have been a fitting snapshot and highest recognition of Reynolds’ place in college football history.
Not everyone sees the Heisman in the same way I do, which is fine. But regardless your interpretation — whether designated for an MVP, Most Outstanding Player, best player on a high-achieving team, or a reward for reflecting values — the Navy athletic department made a compelling case that hits on all points. Click the infographic to view at full size.
Moreover, and least important of all, is ESPN missing out on some compelling television. Tracking Reynolds’ helicopter journey from the Army-Navy Game, the sport’s greatest rivalry, to his arrival at the presentation of the sport’s greatest award presentation? You couldn’t script a better drama.
Alas, status quo reigns supreme.