Keenan Reynolds was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round of the NFL draft, and like any sixth-rounder, the former Navy quarterback will have to fight for a permanent spot on the roster. But even if he makes it, his ties to the Navy may not allow him to suit up come August.

Current Navy rules stipulate those who graduate the academy must serve two years before moving forward with other professional careers, but Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who joined the Dan Patrick Show Thursday to discuss the NCAA’s all-time touchdowns leader, said that he’s “confident” that there is a path where Reynolds can play professional football and fulfill his Navy obligations.

“It depends what gets to my desk, Dan. There’s a Department of Defense rule that states that says you’ve got to serve two years before you go out,” said Mabus, a self-proclaimed Reynolds fan. “We’re going through the process right now to figure out what are the rules, what are the possibilities for Keenan. I’m going to do everything I can to makes sure Keenan gets to do both.”

Mabus added that the official process had not yet been initiated for Reynolds, putting his future whereabouts up in the air. And the former Navy signal-caller is not alone in having the possibility of his professional dreams being put on hold. Joe Cardona, a long snapper for the New England Patriots, is entering his second year in the league after appearing in all 16 games as a rookie.

“We have Joe Cardona, long-snapper for the Patriots. He played last year for the Patriots while he was on active duty because he was able to work them both out. He’s been assigned  to a ship and he’s going to report to that ship, so he may need to leave the Patriots for a year or so in order to go fulfill that role,” Mabus said.

While it certainly seems to take some navigating to move forward with a career in the pros, the exposure granted to their former athletes is not lost on the Navy. Using the surge in recruits the Navy experienced after the 1986 release of “Top Gun” as an example, Mabus told Patrick that having former servicemen in NFL is a great form of promotion for the individual branches and schools.

“If Keenan’s playing for the Ravens, and he’s going out recruiting for the Navy and making appearances for us, that’s a great way for him to serve,” Mabus said. “He’s going to attract a lot of the great talent we need to stay in the Navy.”

As was the case with Cardona, Mabus said there remains a good chance Reynolds will be able to both serve in the Navy and compete in the NFL. According to the Gazette, he told Patrick there was a possibility the Ravens’ proximity to the Annapolis campus would help Reynolds extend his time with the team, saying some cadets work temporary jobs while waiting for assignment.

Prior to the Patriots’s fifth-round selection of Cardona in 2015, the last Naval Academy product to hear his name called on NFL draft day was offensive lineman Mike Wahle in 1998. According to, Wahle resigned his commission before entering the supplemental draft and played for three teams in 11 seasons, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2005 while with the Carolina Panthers.

More recently, and historically, Eric Kettani, a former Navy fullback, went undrafted but was released from active duty to follow his NFL dreams in 2009 — a first up to that point in time due to the nation being at war, per USA Today. He joined the Redskins practice squad after serving just three years, taking on seven years of reserve duty and $60,000 in university charges in exchange for the opportunity.

But now, with multiple athletes from the service academies in the league and two standouts being taken in the NFL draft in back-to-back years for the first time since the 1994 and 1995 seasons, the Navy is poised to deal with the issue of players attempting to pursue the pro athlete route  — and so are the nation’s professional sports leagues.

MLS announced in February that Joe Greenspan, a defender for the Colorado Rapids and a Naval Academy product, would have to report for assignment and miss the beginning of the season after being moved to ship duties in San Diego. In the team release, Vice President of Soccer Operations Paul Bravo said the team used the 26th overall draft pick on Greenspan with full knowledge of his prior engagement, just as the Ravens and Patriots did with Reynolds and Cardona.

“We wish Joe well as he continues his naval commitments,” Rapids VP of soccer operations and technical director Paul Bravo said in a club statement. “We drafted Joe in full knowledge of his service to his country and we have the utmost respect for that obligation.”

In his first year in the league, Cardona worked at a Navy academy in Newport, R.I., one day a week then reported to Norfolk, Va., after the season, according to NESN. Prior to this year’s draft, the Patriots signed long snapper Christian Yount to a one-year deal, likely anticipating Cardona’s possible departure.