Cameron Kinley’s football career appeared to end in May, when his application to delay his five-year service commitment for an opportunity to play in the NFL was denied. That dream was revived Tuesday.

The former Navy cornerback, team captain and class president announced that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had decided to allow him to attend training camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and attempt to make the team. In a separate statement released later Tuesday by the Department of Defense, Austin said Kinley would be “enlisted in the Inactive Ready Reserve for the duration of his football career.”

“Sometimes in life God tells us to be still,” Kinley said in a statement. “We do not always understand what He is trying to show us, but He always has an ultimate plan. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned throughout this whole process is to trust His timing and remain confident in the fact that God will always prevail.”

Kinley’s situation made headlines after he was denied without being given an explanation. At the time, Capt. Jereal Dorsey, special assistant for public affairs, said the Navy was declining all recent requests. Frustration set in for Kinley when Army’s Jon Rhattigan (Seattle Seahawks) and Air Force’s Nolan Laufenberg (Denver Broncos) and George Silvanic (Los Angeles Rams) were approved to delay their service to play in the NFL, according to Ryan Williams-Jenkins, co-founder of Kinley’s agency, Divine Sports and Entertainment. Also, Malcolm Perry, Navy’s record-setting quarterback, has been with the Miami Dolphins since graduating in 2020.

Austin, in his statement, said he approved the plan that will allow Kinley to play in the NFL.

“Upon completion of his playing time, we look forward to welcoming him back inside the ranks as a naval officer,” Austin said. “In the meantime, we know Cameron will take every opportunity on and off the field to ably represent the Navy and the military to the American people and to assist us in our recruiting efforts. 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.”

Lt. Emily Wilkin, a Navy spokeswoman, said Kinley filed a petition with the Navy’s Board for Correction of Naval Records. The board recommended “Kinley’s commission be rescinded so that his request to participate in professional sports could be considered” by the Defense Secretary. The acting secretary of the Navy agreed and forwarded it to Austin, Wilkin added.

President Donald Trump had directed the Pentagon in 2019 to draft guidelines that gave service academy graduates a path to delay their service to capitalize on the opportunity to play professional sports. President Biden said in a statement Tuesday that he was pleased to learn of Kinley’s request being granted.

“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,” Biden said. “After his NFL career is over, he will continue to make us proud as an officer in the United States Navy.”

Kinley has said he has every intention of fulfilling his service requirements, but he also wanted the chance to play professional football while he is able to do so. He had signed as a free agent with the Buccaneers and performed well during rookie minicamp, but he returned to Annapolis in June and was slated to head to Virginia in October to attend school for intelligence officers.

In his statement, Kinley thanked the Buccaneers for being patient and a host of others, including the NFLPA and the NFL, for their help.

“It was never me trying to get out of my service commitment or trying to avoid my service commitment,” Kinley previously told The Washington Post. “When I came to the Naval Academy, I was well aware that I would have to serve five years. And truth be told, when I came to the Naval Academy … my focus was becoming the best leader I can be to serve our country. But the package was to delay my commission, so that I could fulfill this dream while I’m still young, still able, still healthy. And then whenever I got done playing, I was going to commission and fulfill my service for at least five years and maybe even beyond that.”

Mark Maske contributed to this report.

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