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Navy QB Keenan Reynolds named co-winner of 2016 Sullivan Award

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Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds may not have been a Heisman Trophy finalist, but the legendary Midshipmen took home a share of one of the most prestigious individual awards in collegiate athletics Sunday. Reynolds was named a co-winner of the 2016 AAU James E. Sullivan Award in New York. He shares the honor with Connecticut women’s basketball player Breanna Stewart.

“I’m extremely blessed and honored to have won this award,” said Reynolds. “I would like to thank my family, the coaching staff, my teammates, the Naval Academy Athletic Association, the Naval Academy administration, the Brigade of Midshipmen and the entire Naval Academy family for all the support they have provided me over the last four years. Winning this award is the cherry on top of a great four years.”

Reynolds was an all-around class act on and off the field and exhibited all of the best qualities a college football player could possess. Winning the Sullivan Award confirms that as the award is presented to an outstanding amateur athlete who has displayed outstanding achievement in athletics while showing great leadership, character and sportsmanship. Reynolds exhibited all of that in victory and defeat for the Naval Academy.

Reynolds is the third football player in three years to receive the high honor, joining Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott and Penn State offensive lineman John Urschel. Other football players to receive the honor previously include Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning.

Derrick Henry and Keenan Reynolds are finalists for Sullivan Award

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Alabama running back Derrick Henry added a truckload of awards last season while powering Alabama to a national championship run. Henry won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award and the Walter Camp Award in addition to being named a unanimous All-American and taking home SEC Offensive Player of the Year and SEC Championship Game MVP honors. Henry may be focusing on the NFL now, but he may not be done collecting hardware for his most recent season with the Crimson Tide.

Henry is one of seven finalists for the Sullivan Award, awarded to the top amateur athlete across all amateur sports. Navy’s Keenan Reynolds was also named a finalist. Henry and Reynolds are the only two college football players left standing.Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey were semifinalists for the award.

A college football player has won the award three out of the last four years. Last year saw Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott win the award. The year before that it was Penn State offensive lineman John Urschel. Army’s Andrew Rodriguez won the award two years prior to that, with Olympic star Missy Franklin taking home the award in 2013 following her dominant showing in the 2012 summer Olympics (four gold medals, one bronze). Other past winners from the college football gridiron include Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning.

Fans can cast their vote for their Sullivan Award pick online until Wednesday, March 23 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Luke Del Rio getting encouraging spring reviews at Florida

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Florida needs a quarterback to step up and lead the offense in a big way in 2016. The position has been a bit of a sore spot for the Gators since the days of (brace yourself) Tim Tebow. Will Grier appeared to be a bright spot last season before getting suspended for a full calendar year left the offense in the hands of Treon Harris the rest of the way. As the spring gets underway, there is a glimmer of hope for the key position in 2016.

Luke Del Rio is getting some high praise from Gators head coach Jim McElwain and his teammates this spring as he looks to make a case for the starting job for 2016.

“I think one of the things that I love about him is he’s kind of a gym rat type of guy,” McElwain said, according to The Florida Times-Union. “You can tell he obviously grew up around the game. He’s a guy who enjoys watching film. He enjoys, around the guys. He’s does a great job as a leader. I think there’s a lot of intangibles there.”

He certainly did grow up around the game. Del Rio is the son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio. Jack Del Rio has been a coach at the NFL level since 1997, which followed a 12-year career as a player in the league. So yes, Luke Del Rio did indeed grow up around the game. His college journey, though, has been a bit rocky up to this point. Del Rio started his collegiate career at Alabama in 2013 as a walk-on. After redshirting his 2013 season, Del Rio transferred to Oregon State but he once again pursued a transfer after playing just three games with the Beavers. That led him back to the SEC at Florida in 2015.

“He looked natural and very comfortable,” linebacker Jarrad Davis said. “He’s not a guy that’s really going to panic. He’s real laid back, and he’s dropping back in the pocket real smooth with everything that he does. His reads are perfect. He does a lot of things to separate himself from other guys on the team.”

We will see if Del Rio can continue to impress as the spring plays out and see if that leads to any momentum to earning the starting quarterback job in the fall later on.

Deshaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey semifinalists for Sullivan Award

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A college football player has claimed the past two Sullivan Awards, one of the most prestigious honors in amateur athletics.  In going for three straight, the sport will have a quartet of opportunities to extend what would be a first-of-its-kind streak.

Monday, a total of 16 semifinalists for the 2016 Sullivan Award were announced.  Of those 16, four are current or former college football players — Alabama running back Derrick Henry, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Henry, who opted to leave the Tide early for the NFL, was the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner while McCaffrey and Watson, who will be juniors in 2016, were second and third, respectively, in the Heisman voting.  Reynolds put the finishing touches on what will be a Hall of Fame career by becoming the all-time FBS leader in total touchdowns.

Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott was the 2015 winner of the Sullivan, while Penn State offensive lineman John Urschel claimed the 2014 honor.  Six other college football players have earned an honor handed out annually since 1930: Felix “Doc” Blanchard (Army, 1945), Arnold Tucker (Army, 1946), Charlie Ward (Florida State, 1993), Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997), Tim Tebow (Florida, 2007) and Andrew Rodriguez (Army, 2011)

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The remaining dozen semifinalists for the 87th Sullivan are Andrew Benintendi (Arkansas baseball), Ben Simmons (LSU basketball), Nirra Fields (UCLA basketball), Kelsey Minato (Army basketball), Breanna Stewart (UConn basketball), Mikaela Foecke (Nebraska volleyball), Ashleigh Johnson (USA Water Polo), Jordan Burroughs (USA Wrestling), Adeline Gray (USA Wrestling), Jamie Greubel Poser (USA Bobsled), Jordan Wilimovsky (USA Swimming), Brittany Bowe (USA Speed skating) and Simone Biles (USA Gymnastics).

Cam Newton could become third QB with college, Super Bowl title

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A little over five years ago, Auburn — behind Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton — beat Oregon in the BCS Championship. Two weeks from now, Newton will have an opportunity to join a list that currently is only populated by Joe Namath and Joe Montana.

Namath (Alabama, New York Jets) and Montana (Notre Dame, San Francisco 49ers) are the only two quarterbacks in football history to start for a college football champion and win a Super Bowl. Newton would be the third.

Of course, guys like Tom Brady and Ken Stabler were backups at Michigan and Alabama, respectively, and went on to win a Super Bowl (in Brady’s case, Super Bowls) as a pro. Troy Aikman started for part of Oklahoma’s 1985 championship team, but was injured in October and missed the Sooners’ last push to a title. Joe Flacco lost the 2007 FCS Championship to Appalachian State, while Steve Young (BYU) and Peyton Manning (Tennessee) both left college a year before their schools won championships.

College football’s recent quarterback champions don’t lend a ton of hope that anyone will join Namath, Montana and potentially Newton anytime soon. Jameis Winston has the best chance, and A.J. McCarron started for Cincinnati after Andy Dalton got hurt.

But consider the list of quarterbacks to win a college title since 2000: Josh Heupel (now Mizzou’s offensive coordinator), Ken Dorsey (now Newton’s QB coach with the Panthers), Craig Krenzel (now a motivational speaker and founded an insurance company), Matt Mauck (who’s a dentist), Matt Leinart (who’s now a talking head for FOX Sports), Vince Young (who has a steakhouse in Austin and was arrested for DWI on Monday), Chris Leak (who’s a staffer with the Buccaneers), Matt Flynn (who most recently was the Saints’ backup), Tim Tebow (now a talking head for ESPN), Greg McElroy (now a talking head — and an underrated one — for ESPN), Newton, McCarron, Winston, Cardale Jones (who’s turning pro this year) and Jacob Coker (who’s collegiate eligibility is up).