At The Crossroads of Service, Duty, and Dreams

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Meet Cameron Kinley. Fans of Navy Football know him as the team captain, Cadets in the class of 2021 know him as Class President.

He’s the first athlete to serve in this capacity since 1991. Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans know him as an undrafted free agent cornerback who signed with the team back in April. Friends of Kinley know him as a kid with a dream to play in the NFL. This is where it gets complicated.

Not So Fast, Rookie

Kinley has two dreams: serve his country and play professional football. However, the US Navy wants it in exactly that order. What escapes the military brass is how hard it is to go straight from college football to the NFL. Even under the best of circumstances, the transition can be extremely hard. Now, let’s say you take two years off from playing the game. Even if you’re staying in the best of shape. Then, come back and make a squad as an undrafted free agent again. The task is Sears Tower tall, if not near impossible.

Kinley understands his obligation to the Navy. Maybe you didn’t hear me. Team captain, class president. We’re not taking about your average Joe here. Even if he were to play until the age of somebody who could have been his teammate in 2021: Mr. Tom Brady.

At the tender age of 43, Kinley could still have served his country admirably. Not to mention, have been an ambassador for all that is good from the United States service academies. While still pursuing the dream to play in the NFL.

But all of this may be moot.

The Navy grad and Buccaneers rookie cornerback belongs some type of ship. For the time being, it won’t be a pirate ship. The UDFA was looking to compete for the No. 5 cornerback position on a loaded 2021 Buccaneers squad. Instead, he will be forced to commission into the Navy as an Ensign, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Rock The Boat

Serving as Class President the last two years, Kinley shared the stage with Vice-President Kamala Harris at this year’s graduation ceremony. And as you would know, he delivered an inspiring speech that gave Bruce Arians goosebumps. Telling fellow Annapolis graduates to, “choose to be the light at all times”, saying also, “make sure you lead by example, but more importantly, lead with humility”.

“Cam Kinley represents everything we’re about.” said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo.

The Athletic‘s Greg Auman tweeted that the decision goes against recent precedent, which makes the situation even more complex. Kinley had an outside chance to win a roster spot as a cornerback, as well as a special teams player.

But as a result of Monday’s announcement by the US Navy, those dreams of playing in the NFL will have to be put on hold. However, if anyone can overcome this situation, it’s Kinley.

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