Josh Lambo: The NFL kicker who could have played in the Premier League

Dual-sporting backgrounds are scattered throughout NFL history.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in Major League Baseball in 2010, while 2018 No 1 pick Kyler Murray was also a first-round pick for the Oakland Athletics two years ago.

Deion Sanders is famously the only person in history to play in a Super Bowl and a World Series and many feel nine-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers could have played in the NBA.

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Josh Lambo’s career began in ‘soccer’. The Jacksonville Jaguars kicker was selected out of the IMG Soccer Academy by FC Dallas in the first round of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft and played predominantly in the MLS Reserve Division before retiring from the game at the age of 21.

Then a goalkeeper, Lambo may well have wound up in England having had the chance to sign with Everton as a teenager.

“On my 16th birthday David Moyes actually offered me a contract with Everton but I didn’t have my dual-citizenship paperwork done yet with Greece so we were kind of working on it,” Lambo told Sky Sports News.

“The next year I went back for a trial and it didn’t work out so I ended up signing with the MLS. I’ve been on trials with Everton, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, I actually had a trial with Manchester United when I was 12 or 13.

“Tim Howard had just signed with Manchester United and there was Brad Friedel so there was a big American goalkeeper craze. These clubs heard there was a very very large American boy that has dual paperwork and a few of them got pretty excited.

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“Unfortunately it didn’t work out but it’s hard for me to complain being where I am right now.”

Lambo’s debut outing for Dallas ended prematurely when he was forced off through injury, which saw him miss a large chunk of the 2008 season.

“Seven minutes into my first reserve game with FC Dallas I slid in to try and smother a through ball and the forward slid in as well and broke my jaw,” he added. “I think you need to have a few screws loose to be a goalie, I think it helps being a kicker as well.”

Prior to entering the MLS Lambo had featured for the United States men’s U17s at the 2007 U17 World Cup, during which he started in a 2-0 win against a Belgium team including Eden Hazard and Christian Benteke.

He was also an unused substitute at the 2009 U20 World Cup and spent time on loan at FC Tampa Bay, but eventually retired in 2012 after being released by Dallas and subsequently turning down opportunities in the North American Soccer League.

Though it proved a short-lived career, it is one that holds special memories for Lambo, namely the chance to trial with Manchester United.

He recalled: “There’s a young club coach in my hometown in Illinois, he had a buddy that was an Academy coach for United and so every summer he would come over and do like a ‘Manchester United’ camp.

“I performed well enough in one of the camps, I was going to be in Europe with my club anyway and he says ‘hey you’re going to be over in Belgium and Holland, why don’t you stop by Manchester on your way back home and have a trial?’. It was very cool.”

Upon retiring Lambo joined Texas A&M where he played as a placekicker before signing as an undrafted free agent with the San Diego Chargers in 2015.

Having been waived in September 2017, he was picked up by the Jaguars and his since asserted himself as starting kicker, earning a four-year, $15.5m extension in February 2019.

The Jags’ UK exploits have allowed Lambo to fulfill every footballer’s ambition of gracing Wembley Stadium’s hallow turf, though perhaps not in the way he had once envisioned.

“It’s not a typical stadium that Americans are used to playing in,” said Lambo. “For me personally playing at Wembley is a dream, being a proper footballer growing up.”

“I’ve played with youth 17, youth 20, US National team. My first full 90 representing my country was actually in Swindon against England and Theo Walcott in youth 16s back in maybe 2005.

“Me playing in England, I thought I was going to be playing at Wembley with gloves and shin pads instead of a helmet and shoulder pads but it’s amazing for me and for a lot of the other guys.

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