American football and soccer couldn’t be more different. The former demands incredible strength and power while the latter prioritises skill, balance, and precision. The two are incredibly popular as a spectator sport and football betting activity, with legions of fans across the globe.
Given the disparity between the two sports, it’s unsurprising to learn that athletes moving from one to the other is rare, even unheard of. However, one man did exactly that. Josh Lambo, who forged a career in both the MLS and NFL, announced his retirement last month. Let’s take a look back at his incredible journey and discuss whether his MLS to NFL transition will ever be replicated.
Michigan-born Lambo got his professional break when he was drafted by FC Dallas in 2008. Playing as a goalkeeper, he first played mostly in the MLS Reserve Division, but faced a spell on the sidelines early in his career due to a broken jaw.
In 2010, Lambo was sent out on loan to FC Tampa Bay, with whom he made his professional debut when Tampa beat the Carolina RailHawks 2 – 1.
Lambo also played soccer at international level. He appeared twice for the US under-17s at the 2007 u17 FIFA World Cup, playing against a Belgium side that featured Eden Hazard and against Germany. He was in the squad for the u20 World Cup but remained an unused substitute.
After his loan, Lambo was released by his parent club FC Dallas in 2011. Despite trials with Sheffield United and D.C. United, a solid move failed to materialize. He was at something of a crossroads, and still aged just 21, he decided to retire from soccer and attempt to forge a new career in professional sports.
After enrolling at Texas A&M in 2012, Lambo was signed by the university’s football team, where he played as a placekicker. He was then promoted to starting field goal kicker in 2013, with his first winning field goal coming in a victory over Ole Miss.
In 2015, Lambo signed with the San Diego Chargers where he was competing for a spot as a kicker. He claimed the position as his own, going on to convert 26 of 32 attempts in his first season.
Lambo was then signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017, where he won over fans with incredible performances and record-breaking feats, including a 57-yard-long goal in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
After the Jaguars, Lambo had short spells with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans, before deciding to retire from professional sports at the age of 32.
Lambo isn’t the first footballer to move to the NFL, there have been previous examples from Europe. While he is the first to do so from the NFL, there is one trait that almost all who have made the switch share: they tend to play as kickers in the NFL.
This is perhaps the one area where the skills between the two sports are transferrable, so if anyone is to repeat the feat, they are more than likely going to follow the same path as Lambo.