By Mike Patton
NASHVILLE, TN — For the upcoming NFL Draft later in April, former Navy cornerback and Memphis native Cameron Kinley is hoping to get his opportunity to play in the NFL. Along with an opportunity to extend his football career, it is another opportunity to write his chapter in his family’s football legacy.
Before Kinley even touched a football, he already had football in his blood. His father played college football at Middle Tennessee State University and Kinley’s brother, Johnathan, played at the University of Illinois and in the NFL. As for Cameron’s start, well, his dad had something to do with that.
“I started playing when I was 4 years old. My dad started a youth organization called the Memphis Falcons and that was our first year starting up.”
Kinley started off at quarterback and then matriculated to cornerback and running back by the time he was nine. He then started playing running back and cornerback and he stayed with those two positions until his sophomore year at Lausanne High school when he went exclusively to the defensive backfield.
Football wasn’t the only sport Kinley played while growing up. The sport of golf that he learned to play from some friends taught him a big lesson with playing the defensive back position.
“Golf was good for my mental game. As a defensive back, you have to have a short memory. If you had a good play or a bad play, the next play is the only play that matters.”
As Kinley continued to grow in the game, his older brother and mentor, began advising him as well.
“In high school, I used to talk to him and get advice on where I can get better and where I could improve and set myself apart. He played a big, big role in my development as a football player.”
Along with Kinley’s brother, his dad, Richard Kinley, also would give advice to his son as well as a boost to his self-confidence.
“The biggest piece of advice he has given me is to just believe in myself and to trust the training.”
With his brother and father having already played college football, the expectation was for Cameron to play college football as well. However, there was one game that let him know that he could do it and set the stage for him.
“My junior year against Northpoint Christian School. I was just out there and I was in a zone. I had an interception and a couple pass breakups and some good open-field tackles. At that point, I knew and I knew I had to keep building on that and take it up a notch. From then on, I just kept building on those moments.
In his junior season, colleges started calling and one of those was the Naval Academy, which was the school that offered him a scholarship first. After looking into what all they had to offer him for his development as a man and in life along with his football career and the chance to play the University of Memphis within the same conference, he decided the Naval Academy was the place he wanted to go.
Kinley has graduated from the Naval Academy and hopes to receive an exemption from the Navy so he can turn pro. The possibility of a waiver for military academy athletes was approved by President Trump in 2019. But the athlete must still complete his military service at some point or repay the cost of the tax-payer funded education.
From there, Kinley began to play college football at the collegiate level. He learned how to handle adversity. He was cut to the scout level but worked his way back by improving his game and practicing by himself at 6 a.m.