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Secretary of Defense allows Buccaneers’ Cameron Kinley to pursue NFL career

The U.S. Secretary of Defense has granted Kinley the chance to pursue his NFL career and delay his service in the Navy.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Holy Cross at Navy Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Buccaneers rookie cornerback Cameron Kinley will get a chance to pursue his NFL career, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced Tuesday afternoon.

Kinley tweeted a statement upon receiving the news, saying he was “extremely appreciative” of Secretary Austin’s decision and that he is “excited to represent our fine military in the National Football League.”

Kinley, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was previously denied his request to defer his service by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker. He was also denied a chance to appeal and was not given a reason why. But with Secretary Austin’s approval of a plan that will enlist Kinley in the Inactive Ready Reserve during his football career, the 22-year-old will get the chance to earn a roster spot with Tampa Bay during training camp this summer. He will then fulfill his commitment to the U.S. Navy upon the completion of his professional football career.

A team captain and class president during his time at Navy, Kinley impressed during the Bucs’ rookie mini camp, with his big moment coming in the form of an intercepted pass from fellow rookie Kyle Trask.

Kinley received a lot of support over the past month since initially hearing that he wouldn’t be able to join the Bucs, and he even had Senator Marco Rubio send a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to override the decision.

“In the past, the U.S. Department of Defense has issued many waivers to allow athletes to temporarily delay their service to our nation to pursue their professional sports dreams,” Rubio said in his letter. “Unfortunately, Mr. Kinley seems to be the exception, and without reason.”

“Grant Mr. Kinley’s waiver to play in the NFL, and send a message to future academy graduates that the United States is a country where Americans can follow their dreams and be true to their commitment,” Rubio added.

On Tuesday, President Biden released a statement about Kinley, saying he was “pleased” with the decision made by Secretary Austin and that he is “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.”

So, Kinley will get his opportunity to earn a roster spot with the defending champions after all. It’s safe to say that plenty of eyes will be on him when he takes the field for training camp in just a few weeks.