College Sports

Navy football seniors might not get ceremonial sendoff | NOTES

The Navy football team was supposed to celebrate Senior Day this weekend.

A typically close-knit group of 24 seniors was to be honored during a special ceremony before Saturday afternoon’s home game against Memphis.


It would have been a vastly different Senior Day, one without many of the normal trappings. Players would not have walked onto the field flanked by their parents and other family members, while only the Brigade of Midshipmen would have been in the stands at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to applaud.

Despite those missing elements, it would have still been a special moment for the Navy football seniors as the class was recognized for its contributions.


“The fact I still get a chance to play with my brothers one more time at Navy-Marine Corps and suit up with them means the world to me and I’ll definitely be appreciative of that forever,” Navy senior captain Cameron Kinley said earlier this week.

Of course, Saturday’s game against Memphis had been postponed and there is no guarantee that Senior Day will be held at all.

The Midshipmen’s final two home games of this season, scheduled for back-to-back weekends, have both been postponed. Navy does not share an open date with either Tulsa or Memphis, so it appears unlikely either matchup will be rescheduled.

It is possible the American Athletic Conference could rearrange schedules if the Golden Hurricane or Tigers are in contention for the championship game.

This senior class will hang its collective hat on the 2020 season in which Navy compiled an 11-2 record, captured the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and upset Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl. It equaled 2015 as the winningest season in program history and produced one of the greatest turnarounds at the Football Bowl Subdivision level after the Midshipmen had stumbled to a 3-10 mark in 2019.

Kinley was among a group of direct-entry recruits in the Navy football Class of 2021 along with wide receiver Ryan Mitchell, safety Evan Fochtman, slotback Myles Fells and defensive end Jackson Perkins among others. They arrived to join a large contingent of recruits that spent the 2015-2016 academic year at the Naval Academy Prep School.

“I remember coming together plebe summer and meeting with each other during sports period. That’s when you first form that bond as a class,” Kinley recalled. “You complain about everything going on with plebe summer and realize we have to lean on each other to get through this. That’s been our whole mantra our whole time here at the academy.”

Kinley said some of his favorite memories come from summer training sessions when many of the football players learned what life was like for Marines at Camp Lejeune or surface warfare officers stationed in Norfolk.


“We’ve been through a lot during our four years here at the academy. I think about all the memories we formed, the bonds we created, the laughs we shared together,” Kinley said. “These are my brothers for life, and I’ll cherish those memories forever. It’s definitely a special group of guys.”

It has been a strange season for the seniors because of the coronavirus pandemic. There might be just three home games and civilian fans were not allowed at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for any of those.

To date, the only opportunity for parents of the seniors to see their sons play came during road games against East Carolina and SMU. There was a possibility of two family members per player attending the Memphis game, but that is a moot point now.

Kinley and classmates are not complaining about the strange circumstances.

“We’re thankful we at least got a chance to start the season and play some games. Who knows how it will end, but we’re still grateful for what we got,” he said.

Coach Ken Niumatalolo had high praise for this senior class, which had to lead Navy football through the hardships caused by the coronavirus. Upon returning to the academy in July, all the players had to isolate for two weeks as part of a “restriction of movement” period.


A large number of football players have either been put into isolation or required to quarantine over the past two weeks because of COVID-19 positive tests and contact tracing protocols.

“I see these guys as some of the best leaders we’ve ever had. They’ve been a big part of our team staying together mentally, on and off the field. They’ve kept us pressing forward during difficult times,” Niumatalolo said. “These guys have been great leaders amidst of an unprecedented pandemic. That’s been needed more than the football side of it.”

Speaking to the media Tuesday, before the AAC announced postponement of the Memphis game, Niumatalolo expressed disappointment about the parents not being able to participate in the on-field Senior Day ceremony.

“I guarantee you every single player has had discussions with their parents: ‘I’m leaving this place. This is too hard. I don’t know if the military is for me,’ " Niumatalolo said.

Senior Day, just like Commissioning Week, is a chance for parents to pay homage to their midshipmen who hung in there through the tough times and made it through the Naval Academy.

“For them to get to the end, you want to celebrate with them,” Niumatalolo said. “Just the simple and beautiful experience of parents being with their sons for the final game, those are memorable times.”


Incidentally, Navy has won 17 straight games on Senior Day. Niumatalolo has always marveled at how important that game is to the underclassmen, who want desperately to send the seniors out the right way.

“That’s the biggest part of it. The younger guys recognize all of what the seniors have done to lay the foundation, and they want to do all they can to pay the seniors back,” he said. “It’s always an emotional game and guys lay it on the line for the seniors.”

Navy special teams defender Cameron Kinley celebrates a missed field goal by Memphis during an NCAA college football game in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. (Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal via AP)

President Kinley a leading candidate

Kinley, who is president of the senior class at the Naval Academy, received a pair of prestigious honors this past week.

Thursday, the National Football Foundation announced Kinley as one of 12 finalists for the Campbell Trophy.

The Campbell Trophy, also known as the Academic Heisman, is college football’s premier scholar-athlete award that annually recognizes an individual as the best in the nation for his combined academic success, football performance and leadership.

All 12 finalists will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the 2020 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Class. Later this year, one member of the class will be declared the winner of the William V. Campbell Trophy and have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000.


Kinley is the 10th Navy football player selected as a finalist and third during Niumatalolo’s 13-year tenure, joining John Dowd (2011) and E.K. Binns (2015).

Campbell Trophy nominees must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of playing eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.

Kinley is a two-year starter at cornerback and carries a 3.32 GPA. The Memphis native, son of Richard and Candace Kinley, is a member of the Midshipmen Diversity Team at the academy. He hopes to be commissioned as a Naval intelligence officer.

“It’s definitely a blessing to be named a finalist for the Campbell Trophy. Ever since I was young my parents always emphasized the importance of grades coming first,” Kinley said. “They sacrificed a lot to ensure me and my siblings received the best education possible to set us up for success such as this. I’m thankful for all my teachers and coaches who have helped me get to this point.”

It was announced Friday that Kinley is one of 30 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision student-athletes selected for the 2020 Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes seniors with notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.

An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.


To determine the overall Senior CLASS award winner, the 30 candidates will be narrowed down to 10 finalists at the end of the regular season and those names will be placed on the official ballot.

Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system available to media, coaches and fans, who will select one candidate who exemplifies excellence in all four categories.

Kinley is among four candidates from the American Athletic Conference along with Memphis quarterback Shane Buechele, Memphis kicker Riley Patterson and Memphis quarterback Brady White.

Surprise, surprise, surprise!

Niumatalolo was in the midst of an online news conference Tuesday afternoon when an important text message popped up on his phone. The 55-year-old mentor was answering a question about the Navy quarterback situation when he suddenly stopped and did a double-take.

“Woo hoo! I’m sorry, I just got a text that I had a granddaughter. My daughter just had her baby,” Niumatalolo told the media in attendance to explain his sudden reaction.

Alexcia Niumatalolo Cummings, a multi-sport athlete at Broadneck High who went on to play lacrosse at Maryland, gave birth to her second child Tuesday. She lives on the island of Oahu, where her father grew up and still has a home.


Ken Niumatalolo’s fourth granddaughter was named Barbara in honor of his wife.

“I’m very excited and grateful being a grandfather again. It really puts things in perspective,” said Niumatalolo, calling it a “silver lining” during a troublesome year.