Navy Denies NFL Rookie Cameron Kinley’s Request to Play for Tampa Bay

The cornerback had hoped to delay his commission to pursue an NFL career

Cameron Kinley
Cameron Kinley carries the flag while playing for the Navy Midshipmen.
Getty Images

 Like future Hall of Famer and 1963 Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach before him, Cameron Kinley will be putting his dream of playing pro football in the NFL on hold in order to serve his country as a member of the United States Navy. But it isn’t by choice.

Kinley, an undrafted rookie cornerback who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year, requested to delay his commission in order to begin his NFL career, but that request was denied and he’s being required to start his service as an ensign, the junior commissioned officer rank in the Navy. In addition to denying Kinley’s commission request, the Navy also ruled against giving him a shot to appeal the decision. As a result, the rookie cornerback will not be making his NFL debut this season, barring something drastic happening.

In a statement, Kinley said he was “puzzled” why his request to delay his commission was denied while four other members of his class from different service branches were allowed to put their military careers on pause in order to pursue their dreams in the NFL.

“I am very aware of the commitment that I made to service when I first arrived at the United States Naval Academy,” he wrote in part. “I look forward to my career as a naval officer in the information warfare community. However, I am deserving of the opportunity to live out another one of my lifelong dreams before fulfilling my service requirement. I have hopes that this situation will soon be overturned, and that I can get back to competing on the field and representing the U.S. Navy.”

The captain of the football team and the U.S. Naval Academy’s 2021 class president, Kinley had 88 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble in 27 games in college.

“In recent years, we have seen a handful of NFL prospects come out of service academies and defer service. Each case is reviewed independently, but there is a policy (initially enacted by President Obama then rescinded and re-enacted by President Trump) allowing such opportunities,” college football senior writer Nicole Auerbach wrote for The Athletic. “This case feels unusual and disappointing, particularly because he’s not allowed to appeal the decision.”

One of the players Kinley referenced in his statement, undrafted rookie linebacker Jon Rhattigan, is hoping to make the roster of the Seattle Seahawks. “I’m just blessed that I was able to graduate from West Point and there’s a policy in place that allows us to represent and play in the NFL, as well,’’ Rhattigan told the Seattle Times. “That wasn’t my main goal.”

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