Over four years as a starter, Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds commanded the attention of teammates in the huddle during the most important junctures of each game. The co-captain never gave a second thought when it came to offering guidance or motivation, particularly this season as a senior in directing the Midshipmen to unprecedented heights in program history.
But on Tuesday afternoon, Reynolds admitted to having difficulty finding the right words upon accepting the inaugural Stephen Decatur Award. The award presented by the White House Historical Association recognizes a young leader who upholds the ideals exemplified by its namesake. Decatur was one of the most decorated naval officers in U.S. history, but the award is not exclusive to the military.
The ceremony took place at Decatur House, Stephen Decatur’s former residence just steps from the White House, where Reynolds and his teammates will be visiting in the spring after winning the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the third time in four years.
“A great way to kick off 2016,” Reynolds said of the award that coincided with what would have been Decatur’s 237th birthday. “There’s so much history in this house, so many distinguished guests, so many very important people here today. To be here, I’m just truly blessed and thankful.”
Among the guests were three former secretaries of the Navy, including John Dalton, a member of the WHHA board of directors, as well as Vice Adm. Ted Carter, the superintendent of the Naval Academy. Also attending was Adm. Tom Lynch, the captain of the 1963 team that played for the national championship in the Cotton Bowl behind Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Roger Staubach.
With midshipmen still on leave, most of Reynolds’s teammates were unable to be at the ceremony in which WHHA President Stuart McLaurin presented the winningest quarterback in school history a framed print depicting a sea battle during the War of 1812 involving Decatur. As captain of the USS United States, Decatur defeated and captured the British ship HMS Macedonian.
Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo also was unable to attend following the sudden passing of his brother. James Niumatalolo, a retired lieutenant colonel in the army, died Dec. 29 while swimming in the ocean near his home in Laie, Hawaii. Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday.
“He’s a humble guy, a great guy, a great leader,” senior fullback Quentin Ezell said of Reynolds. “We’ve followed him since his freshman year, and looking back on it, he’s done everything right. Couldn’t ask for a better captain.”
In leading the No. 21 Midshipmen (11-2) to the most wins in a single season in school history, Reynolds became major college football’s all-time leader in total touchdowns (88), points (530) and rushing yards by a quarterback (4,559). He was named American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year in Navy’s first season as a member of a conference and was fifth in Heisman Trophy voting.
Next up for Reynolds is the East-West Shrine Game Jan. 23. The sixth player to run and pass for 4,000 yards in his career was invited to participate in the annual all-star game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., as a running back.
“When I first got [to Navy], I was just trying to get on the field,” Reynolds said. “I didn’t think anything about records or anything like that. I just wanted to play, but I knew this summer we had a special team. We knew we had a special team. We knew we had an opportunity to do something great here. I’m just thankful we were able to stay the course and work hard and finish it out.”