Navy Denies Former Football Standout’s Request to Delay Service and Play in the NFL

by Suzanne Halliburton
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Cameron Kinley was a captain of the Navy football team. And he was president of his senior class.

However, Kinley wanted to extend his football career by playing in the NFL. But the Navy recently rejected his request.

Kinley was a cornerback for the Navy football team. He wasn’t drafted, but he did sign a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the defending Super Bowl champions. In fact, Kinley already had gone through a week of rookie minicamp in Tampa last month. A year ago, Miami drafted Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry in the seventh round and was given the go-ahead to play in the pros.

Then Kinley graduated from the Naval Academy. At about the same time, he heard from the Navy about his football career. They turned him down.

“I have spent the past week processing my emotions,” said the Navy football star, “as it is very difficult to have been this close to achieving a childhood dream and having it taken away from me.”

Other Service Academy Athletes Got Go Ahead, But Navy Football Player Was Turned Down

If you go through one of the country’s military academies, you have to follow through with the service commitment. The five-year commitment is part of the deal. But there have been exceptions. Ash Carter, who was Secretary of Defense during the Obama administration, allowed athletes to go on reserve status to be able to play pro sports. The Trump Administration rejected that policy in 2017. But then Trump reversed himself in 2019 while he was speaking to members of the Army football team.

Apparently, Navy football players can’t all do that. The exceptions should be “rightfully rare.” Capt. Jereal Dorsey, a spokesman for the Secretary of the Navy, told CNN:

“When students accept admission and continue their education in this program, there is an understanding and acknowledgment that they will upon graduation be commissioned,” Dorsey said. “Every Midshipman attends on the same terms and each has the same responsibility to serve. Exceptions to that commitment to serve have been rightfully rare.”

While Navy football players must maintain their service commitment, four other players have been approved to play for the NFL this season. Three are Air Force grads and one is from West Point.

Roger Staubach Probably Was Most Famous Football Player for Midshipman Who Waited

In past years, Navy football stars needed to wait. The most famous delay might’ve been Roger Staubach, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1963. The Dallas Cowboys selected Staubach in the 10th round of the 1964 draft. He didn’t join the Cowboys until 1969. And he helped Dallas to two Super Bowl wins.

David Robinson wasn’t a Navy football star. Rather, he played for the basketball team. The San Antonio Spurs selected “The Admiral” in the first round of the 1987 NBA draft. But Robinson served two years before he played for the Spurs.

Napoleon McCallum is another Navy football example. He was selected by the LA Raiders in the fourth round of the 1986 draft. He was stationed in California and was allowed to play football his rookie season. However, he was assigned to the USS California in 1987. And since the ship was patrolling parts of the Indian Ocean, McCallum couldn’t play football.