TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Cameron Kinley remembers scoring his first touchdown when he was only six years old.
“I played quarterback, so it was a fake handoff,” he told me, “and I came around from the outside running as fast as I could because I did not like getting tackled.”
He remembers why he chose to combine his passion for football with his passion for his country.
“I went to the United States Naval Academy because I knew I was going to be challenged,” said Kinley. “I knew I was going to be placed in uncomfortable situations and it was going to force me to grow and learn how to deal with adversity and that is what happened during my four years there.”
He also remembers the moment that forced him to change his course, one of his dreams dashing another one of his dreams.
That moment arrived on Tuesday, May 25, in the conference room of Captain TR Buchanan.
“It was me, my battalion officer, and then there was a baseball player and his battalion officer,” recalled Kinley, “and Captain TR Buchanan informed us that the acting secretary of the Navy declined our package to delay our commissioning. There was not really an explanation and then he informed us there would not be an appeal process for the decision.”
Suddenly, Kinley, a cornerback who had signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the beginning of May, did not have the necessary permission to try to fulfill his dream of playing in the National Football League.
He only asked to delay it, not to ignore it.
“I was kind of speechless,” admitted Kinley. “I started thinking about the whole journey, being able to go down to Tampa and compete for a spot on the 53-man roster – so all of the hard work, all of the adversity you overcome and, for somebody to be able to take that away, it hurts especially when you are so close to achieving a childhood dream.”
The acting secretary of the Navy at that time, Thomas W. Harker, decided Kinley’s fate. However, following that decision, President Joe Biden nominated a new man, Carlos Del Toro, for that position.
“It could possibly change things around,” said Kinley, although he has not contacted Del Toro yet.
Regardless of that possibility, Kinley is remaining confident in his future because he is remaining connected to his faith.
“I find peace in Him, knowing He has a plan for me,” said Kinley. “I know that His will, will be done.”
He had the opportunity to participate in the Buccaneers rookie minicamp in the middle of May and he shared that experience with me.
“It was a big, happy family,” said Kinley. “Everybody welcomed me in and I appreciated that the players, who were already on the team, they were not trying to act too big time around you. They went ahead and welcomed you onto the roster so that family atmosphere was what I really appreciated about being down there in Tampa.”
Kinley, obviously, commented on the highlight of that camp experience. He intercepted the Buccaneers rookie quarterback, Kyle Trask.
“I was like, ‘I got to be able to make a play or something to show my potential,’” said Kinley, “so, when that play happened, in the moment, I was like, ‘Man, that really just happened! I just got an interception!’ and then I started seeing everything on Twitter after and I was like, ‘I just got to keep building on it from here. That was a good start,’ and it just gave me the confidence boost I needed moving forward. So that was definitely a memory I will remember forever. Quite frankly, it might be my last football experience but, yes, it was good. It was good.”
Despite showing he is a talented athlete, Kinley will be swapping a football uniform for a different uniform in two weeks. He will return to the U.S. Naval Academy on June 28 to start his temporary duty assignment. Then, in October, he will relocate to Virginia for six months before he embarks on his career as an officer.
“I can definitely look back and smile without any regrets. At the end of the day, I did everything that I could do,” said Kinley. “I am looking to see what my career path brings and then following that, potentially going into politics, running for president one day – it depends on how life is going but I am excited to see what it brings.”