Pentagon allows Navy football captain to delay service to play in NFL

Navy Midshipmen cornerback Cameron Kinley celebrates during an NCAA Football match at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD.

Daniel Kucin Jr. | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin approved a plan on Tuesday that will allow former Naval Academy football player Cameron Kinley the opportunity to pursue a career in the NFL.

“Upon completion of his playing time, we look forward to welcoming him back inside the ranks as a naval officer,” Austin wrote in a statement. “I applaud Navy leadership for finding this way to showcase both Cameron’s athletic prowess, as well as the quality and professionalism of our student-athletes and our personnel,” Austin added.

The Navy had previously denied Kinley’s request to delay his active-duty service in order to play in the NFL.

“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,” President Joe Biden wrote in a statement. He added that “after his NFL career is over, he will continue to make us proud as an officer in the United States Navy.”

Austin’s reversal means Kinley, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted rookie cornerback, will now be able to attend the team’s training camp later 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,” Kinley wrote in a statement.

The former captain of the U.S. Navy Midshipmen football team also thanked several lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for their support.

“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,” Kinley added.

(With inputs from CNBC)