By Mark Zinno

There aren’t many issues where I struggle to choose a side. I know what I like and what I don’t. I know what I believe and what I don’t. But when the Baltimore Ravens drafted Keenan Reynolds last weekend, I knew an inevitable dilemma was coming.

Today it was announced by the Secretary of the Navy that Reynolds would be able to serve his commitment to the Navy while playing football for the Ravens. As someone who has put on a uniform and defended this nation for almost 17 years, I am really torn on how I feel about this. On one hand, the kid deserves a shot to play. He’s earned it. He was drafted and that’s not something that everyone can say they’ve accomplished. On the other hand, he made a commitment to the Navy and the country. Should he be allowed to change that just because a more interesting offer came along?

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This is an issue that is more complex that people would think. This isn’t a decision that is made in a vacuum. This isn’t just about Reynolds and his personal military or football career. When it comes to his commitment to the Navy, he signed a document, just like thousands of other Midshipmen over the course of decades, in which he agreed to honor. I’m sure there have been plenty of Midshipmen with offers from businesses, law firms, Wall Street that certainly would have paid them much more than an Ensign’s salary, but they didn’t get a chance to get the Secretary of the Navy to give them that option.

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Keenan Reynolds isn’t special – at least not in the eyes of his classmates. They all took the same classes, got up early for the same physical training and endured the same demanding schedules in preparation for becoming part of the world’s greatest military. And he isn’t special in the eyes of those at his first assignment, the Sailors who will work for him and the non-commissioned officers he is leading. His responsibility to them doesn’t change whether he was great at football or he warmed the bench. Allowing Reynolds some special exemption isn’t just about him. It’s about the future exemptions that will be made for others. Why should football be the only thing the Secretary of the Navy allows Midshipmen’s commitment to be flexible? Why not women’s basketball? Or a civilian job? Where does it stop? Similarly, I have a contract with 92-9 The Game. I can’t just leave the station because I have a better offer. There’s something to be said for honoring the deal you signed.

Keenan Reynolds has earned a chance to play in the NFL. That’s special. Is it possible for him to get an assignment where he can play football and fulfill his commitment to the Navy? I’m sure there is. I’d be the first to tell you, the military offers some really cushy assignments. Would Reynolds be a great ambassador to the military and a face for other young men and women to look up to and admire? No doubt. Is his story inspiring? I’m certain it is. Not every person in the military is meant to take out the bad guys, get medals pinned to their chest or even have a notable career. Some just serve and do their piece of the puzzle. No more, no less. And that is fine. People who do their part are equally as important. So Keenan Reynolds could have a small role in the Navy and a large role in the NFL.

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It’s very hard for me to just be okay with him playing – and it’s not because I don’t want him to play. I just think about the Sailors he would be leading. I think about the tough assignment he is foregoing and how that affects others and the Navy’s mission. But if the military has taught us anything, it’s that greatness is only achieved by pushing the limits and doing the unconventional. No matter what happens, I wish Keenan Reynolds luck – he’s earned that much from me.