Just before 6 p.m., almost every member of the Navy football team moved en masse from the weight room in the basement of Ricketts Hall to an adjacent lounge.
Players filled up the many comfortable couches and chairs in the room and were soon joined by members of the coaching staff and support personnel.
All eyes were focused on a large flat screen television mounted on the front wall, watching SportsCenter on ESPN. They were hoping to hear that Keenan Reynolds had been named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, which will be presented on Saturday night.
After suffering through some pregame hoopla for the Monday Night Football matchup between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys along with a report from the Major League Baseball winter meetings, the crowd grew silent as former Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams appeared on the screen.
Williams, the 64th winner of the Heisman Trophy as a senior at Texas in 1998, proceeded to announce the players being invited to New York for the nationally-televised presentation ceremony at the Best Buy Theatre. He read off the names of Alabama tailback Derrick Henry, Stanford tailback Christian McCaffrey and Clemson quarteback Deshaun Watson. That was it. Only three.
There was total silence in the Ricketts Hall lounge area as those associated with Navy football processed the news. Reynolds, the program's record-setting quarterback, had been snubbed.
"I'm really disappointed for Keenan, but life goes on," said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, clearly crestfallen. "I really thought he was deserving of an invite. What can you do?"
Reynolds has enjoyed a banner senior season that saw him set the Football Bowl Subdivision record for career rushing touchdowns with 83. The Tennessee native needs two more touchdowns to become the overall NCAA Division I leader, surpassing Football Championship Subdivision running backs Adrian Peterson (Georgia Southern) and Terrance West (Towson).
Also this season, Reynolds became the all-time leading rusher in Naval Academy history with 4,279 yards -- surpassing legendary running back Napoleon McCallum.
Reynolds was named the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,093 yards and 19 touchdowns while passing for another 964 yards and six scores. The senior standout needs just 36 more yards through the air to become the first Navy quarterback to surpass 1,000 yards both rushing and passing in two different seasons.
Navy officially began promoting Reynolds for the Heisman Trophy prior to its showdown with Houston for the West Division crown and berth in the AAC championship game. Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach, Navy's two Heisman Trophy winners, issued a joint statement endorsing Reynolds as a candidate.
"If the voters carefully read the mission of the Heisman Trophy, the first person that should come to mind is Keenan Reynolds," Bellino and Staubach said in their statement. "His on field achievements coupled with the values he represents make him the ideal candidate. He has our vote."
"The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence and integrity," reads the Heisman Trust Mission Statement.
Bellino and Staubach, Heisman winners in 1960 and 1963, respectively, believe excellence and integrity are the key words in that paragraph. Many observers felt inviting Reynolds to the presentation ceremony would have sent a strong message about what the Heisman Trust stood for.
"If Keenan Reynolds is not a Heisman finalist they need to change the Heisman Mission Statement to the most outstanding college football player in a single season that plays in a power five conference," said Scott Strasemeier, Navy's associate athletic director for sports information. "It's a shame Keenan didn't get invited, because he deserved it. Not because he played at Navy, but because over the last four years he's been the best player in college football."
ESPN sparked a mini controversy last week when it removed Reynolds from the ballot on the Nissan Heisman House website that was conducting a fan poll. Reynolds had been leading the poll by a wide margin before being removed from the main page, forcing voters to navigate a series of drop down menus in order to make him a write-in candidate. Overnight, Henry erased a 12 percentage points deficit to pull into a tie with Reynolds.
After receiving significant criticism from multiple media outlets, ESPN did an about face and put Reynolds back on the ballot on the main page. Reynolds wound up winning the fan voting, 38 percent to 34 percent over Henry. That meant Nissan cast its one vote for the Heisman Trophy on behalf of Reynolds.
Ivin Jasper, who has tutored Reynolds the past four years, sat silently in a chair for several minutes after the room cleared out on Monday night. Jasper, in his 14th season as quarterbacks coach and eighth as offensive coordinator, could not hide how upset he was that Reynolds had been excluded.
"I'm very, very disappointed. Considering what the trophy stands for and the criteria, I felt the kid deserved to be a finalist -- it wasn't even close," Jasper said. "I feel bad for Keenan because the kid has been outstanding his whole career. He's a great individual and is going to be a great Naval officer for this country. I think they really missed the boat on this."
Jasper said Reynolds will have a chance to show the country he was a deserving candidate by playing well and helping Navy beat Army on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. Reynolds, who was not present in the Ricketts Hall lounge for the announcement, has been steadfast all season in stating that team goals are more important than individual goals and stuck to that theme on Monday night.
"I am thankful for all the support I received throughout the process. It's unfortunate that I didn't get invited, but we still have a season to finish out and Army is the number one priority right now," Reynolds said in a statement released through the Navy Sports Information Department.