Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, appeared on the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday morning to discuss the situation surrounding Keenan Reynolds and his desire to pursue professional football.
While he still has commitments to the Navy, it appears Reynolds will get the chance to play with the Ravens, who drafted him in the sixth round of the NFL draft Saturday.
"I'm confident that we can work something out for Keenan to do both – to serve his country and to play professional football," Mabus said.
That statement prompted Patrick to push Mabus on whether he would sign an order that allowed Reynolds to play for the Ravens while also serving his Navy commitment.
Mabus mentioned several service options – though it's unclear what path Reynolds will take at this point.
"It depends what gets to my desk," Mabus said. "There's a Department of Defense rule that states that says you've got to serve two years before you go out. 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."
Patrick asked if the proximity between the Naval Academy and the Baltimore Ravens' training facility in Owings Mills was a factor. The Secretary said that could be helpful and pointed out that numerous commissioned officers remain at the Naval Academy on temporary assignment duty for varying periods of time following graduation.
Patrick hosts a popular syndicated radio program that is televised by NBC Sports. Patrick is an unabashed fan of Reynolds and believes he should have been invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony.
On Monday, Patrick debated with show personnel about whether Reynolds should be given an opportunity to play for the Baltimore Ravens after being selected in the draft.
Patrick told his producer, Paul Pabst, to arrange an interview with Mabus to answer questions about the issue.
Mabus came onto the show shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday, and said he was in California while en route to Japan.
His thoughts on Reynolds being drafted?
"I thought it was terrific," Mabus said. "Keenan Reynolds is one of the finest people I know. He's just a sterling individual. If I'm an NFL coach or GM, he's the kind of person I want in my locker room."
Mabus also revealed the U.S. Navy is engaged in preliminary discussions with Hollywood producers about a possible Top Gun II movie. Mabus said the original movie brought great publicity to the Navy and made a massive impact on recruiting.
Like the Top Gun movie, Mabus believes having a player in the NFL brings positive publicity for the Naval Academy.
"It ties into what we were talking about with Top Gun, when we have guys coming out of the Naval Academy that go on to play professional sports, or do other things that are high profile, it gives us a chance to show who we are, gives us a chance to emphasize the type of people that we attract and recruit," Mabus said.
"I can't think of a better ambassador for the United States Navy or for the United States Military than Keenan Reynolds."
There is precedent. Joe Cardona was the long snapper for the New England Patriots while simultaneously serving at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I. Joseph Greenspan played for the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer while working at a recruiting station in Denver.
But it always comes with questions. Mabus said neither Cardona nor Greenspan are guaranteed to be playing their respective pro sport this year, depending on their assignments to ships.
Reynolds, the most high-profile athlete to come out of the Naval Academy recently, could use his fame to serve in a different capacity.
"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."