Navy Denies NFL Rookie's Request to Delay Service to Play This Season: My Dream 'Taken Away'
"I have spent the past week processing my emotions, as it is very difficult to have been this close to achieving a childhood dream and having it taken away from me," Cameron Kinley wrote in response
NFL rookie Cameron Kinley will have to wait to pursue his professional football dreams after the U.S. Navy denied his request to delay his military service.
On Monday, 22-year-old Kinley - who played four years on the U.S. Naval Academy's football team - posted a statement to social media revealing the Navy's decision to have him immediately commission as an ensign instead of joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team he signed with as an undrafted free agent this year.
"Recently, I was informed that my request to delay my service in order to play in the NFL was denied by the Secretary of the Navy," Kinley wrote. "I have spent the past week processing my emotions, as it is very difficult to have been this close to achieving a childhood dream and having it taken away from me."
Graduates of military service academies are required to serve five years of active duty after graduation, the U.S. Naval Academy's admissions website says.
Kinley said that there are currently four members from different branches of the military who have recently been able to delay their military service to play in the NFL, like Joe Cardona of the New England Patriots. He said he was "puzzled" why his request was denied.
"I am very aware of the commitment that I made to service when I first arrived at the United States Naval Academy," Kinley, who also served as class president and team captain at the Naval Academy, said. "I look forward to my career as a naval officer in the information warfare community. However, I am deserving of the opportunity to live out another one of my life-long dreams before fulfilling my service requirement."
Kinley said he hoped to have the decision overturned so he can participate with the 2021 Super Bowl champion Buccaneers this NFL season after graduating from the Naval Academy earlier this month.
According to The Athletic, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker not only denied Kinley's request to play in the NFL but also denied him the chance to appeal the decision.
In a statement to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for the Secretary of the Navy said permission to delay military service is "rare."
"Admission to the Naval Academy is an extensive and competitive process," they said. "The mission of the Naval Academy is to develop young men and women to commission as officers in the Navy or Marine Corps."
"When students accept admission and continue their education in this program, there is an understanding and acknowledgment that they will upon graduation be commissioned," their statement continued. "Every Midshipman attends on the same terms and each has the same responsibility to serve. Exceptions to that commitment to serve have been rightfully rare."
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As CNN notes, NFL Hall of Famer and Navy alum Roger Staubach won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s, and three other Navy graduates have been drafted by teams over the last six seasons.