Bucs rookie gets permission from Navy to pursue NFL dream

Cameron Kinley of the Navy Midshipmen carries an American flag as the team takes the field against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 05, 2020 in Annapolis, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) (Rob Carr, 2020 Getty Images)

Cameron Kinley is getting his shot to play in the NFL.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie was granted permission by the Secretary of Defense to go to training camp this summer and pursue his NFL dream.

Kinley, an undrafted free agent, signed with the Buccaneers but was not given permission by the Navy’s Acting Secretary, Thomas W. Harker to play. Kinley said last month that he hoped a resolution would allow him to pursue the NFL first before beginning his commission.

On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin gave Kinley permission to try and make the Buccaneers’ roster.

Kinley released the following statement on social media on Tuesday.

“Today I was informed the Secretary of Defense will be allowing me to continue my journey with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and attend training camp at the end of this month. I am extremely appreciative of Secretary Austin’s decision and I am excited to represent our fine military in the National Football League. This past month has been very challenging and I am thankful for everyone who has supported me in any way.

“Sometimes in life God tells us to be still. We do not always understand what He is trying to show us, but He always has an ultimate plan. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned throughout this whole process is to trust His timing and remain confident in the fact that God will always prevail.

“Thank you to my village for standing beside me. Without my family and close friends, there is no way I would be where I am today.

“I would like to give a special thanks to my agency, Divine Sports & Entertainment for their tireless efforts to work through this situation. Not only have they done a great job representing me, but Michael De Sane and Ryan Williams-Jenkins made sure to check on me and ensure I was keeping my head up.

“I would also like to say thank you to DeMaurice Smith, Joe Briggs and the NFLPA, the NFL league office, Senator Marco Rubio, Representative John Garamendi, Representative Austin Scott, Omega Psi Phil Fraternity, Inc., various USNA alumni, and the many others for their efforts. Also, I’d like to extend my gratitude to all the media outlets who reached out to help share my story.

“Lastly, thank you to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization for believing in me and remaining patient with me throughout this process. I am excited to get back to work in Tampa Bay with my teammates.”

President Joe Biden said that he was glad that Kinley had received permission to pursue his NFL ambition.

“Today, I was pleased to learn from Secretary of Defense Austin that he has granted Cameron Kinley’s request to pursue a playing career in the National Football League prior to his service as a naval officer. I am confident that Cameron will represent the Navy well in the NFL, just as he did as a standout athlete and class president at the Naval Academy. After his NFL career is over, he will continue to make us proud as an officer in the United States Navy,” Biden said in a statement.

A 2019 memo spearheaded by then-President Donald Trump put in place measures for allowing athletes from the country’s service academies to push back their active-duty service start dates so that they could pursue professional sports. The Associated Press reported that athletes must get approval from the Pentagon chief and it requires them to eventually fulfill their military obligation or repay the costs of their education.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.