Linebacker Cameron Kinley had played four years at the Naval Academy and went undrafted in the 2021 NFL Draft. Kinley recorded 88 tackles, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble, and 12 passes defended while at Navy.
As Kinley walked down the street, his phone rang. His agent was calling to tell him that the Kansas City Chiefs were interested in signing him as an undrafted free agent.
Kinley’s mood went from one of sadness and disappointment to one of joy and delight as he would have a chance to continue his football career.
Hours later, the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers would contact Kinley and make him an offer to come to camp as an undrafted free agent.
Kinley had a decision to make, and he chose to head south to Tampa and take a shot at making the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster.
Kinley said that he chose Tampa because of his relationship with some of the Buccaneer coaches.
He performed well during OTA’s and mini-camp and was given an invite to attend training camp. Finally, Kinley would have a chance to live out his dream of a possible NFL career.
But there was one other obstacle that Kinley would have to overcome. That would be deferring his service time to after his NFL career had concluded.
Upon graduation from the Naval Academy, the requirements are that you begin a commission as a Navy officer before you begin your career as a citizen.
Kinley had to get permission from the Secretary of the Navy and get his commission requirements waived to continue his NFL career.
Kinley signed his contract May 1st and put on a Buccaneer’s uniform for the first time. He showed up at mini-camp ready to work and earn a roster spot in 2021.
A Bump In The Road
Upon graduation in late May, Kinley received the news that would be crushing. He learned that the Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker denied his waiver request that would’ve delayed his commission and allow him to play for the Bucs.
Under this order, Kinley would have to begin serving his commission immediately.
Then, in early July, another phone call that would come as a pleasant surprise and be great news for Kinley.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called Kinley and told him that he had decided to reverse the earlier decision. Austin said that this was the correct decision, and he was looking forward to seeing Kinley take advantage of this opportunity.
Kinley is participating in the Bucs training camp and has a big chip on his shoulder as he tries to make the team. Kinley talked about the opportunity in front of him.
“It’s kind of the mindset that I’ve had since I began playing the game of football. You know, don’t let anybody outwork you, and give 110 percent. So I’m excited about it. I definitely have a chip on my shoulder.”
The odds are against Kinley making this Bucs team. He is an undrafted free agent on a Super Bowl-winning team, that returns all 11 starters on defense, trying to earn a roster spot.
Kinley has already overcome a huge hurdle that many thought he would never be able to overcome. Now, Kinley has an opportunity to shock the world again by earning a roster spot on a Super Bowl-winning team.
Kinley has the right attitude and the right mindset. Now it’s just a matter of putting it together on the field.