Depending on where you grew up, the word ‘football’ may mean two different things. In the United States, the sport is directly linked to the NFL, the country’s biggest and most followed sporting league, while in Europe and other parts of the world, it describes what Americans call soccer players, or a very different sport that is not played by throwing a ball across a field but rather kicking it into opposing goals.
Despite the history and usage of the sports’ names, they are very different in terms of rules, number of players, style, etc., but you probably knew that already, right? So it’s no surprise that it isn’t very common to find many athletes that have played both throughout their careers.
However, there are a small handful of NFL players who did try their hand in soccer at some point, even some making it to the professional environment. In this article we take look at three of these athletes, past and current.
Pennsylvania native Chris Bahr showed aptitude in football and soccer early on, becoming an All-American in both sports at Penn State. He was especially strong in punting and scoring field goals, no surprise due to his strong leg from playing football.
In 1975 he was drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Atoms, a then top tier club from the North American Soccer League (NASL). After one year with the franchise and being named the Rookie of the Year, he decided to pursue kicking balls in a different direction with the NFL, joining the Cincinnati Bengals as their starting kicker.
He also had a successful run with the Raiders, with whom he kicked in two Super Bowl wins. Bahr ended his career kicking a whopping 17 field goals for the San Diego Chargers following the 1989 season.
Nowadays, Bahr’s former team, the Chargers are doing better than they have in years, maintaining a top position in the AFC West. As the 56th Super Bowl championship game draws near and fans eagerly analyze top nfl picks ahead of Week 15, only time will tell if the franchise will be a major contender in next year’s playoffs. As for Bahr, the memorable kicker went into finance after his athletic career, currently managing the assets of professional players.
Another former professional athlete who hails from the 1970s, the late Toni Linhart is one of the only Austrian-born players to ever play in the NFL. However, before making it to football’s big leagues, Linhart was a long-term member of the Wiener Sports-Club as well as the Austrian national team.
He also spent time playing for First Vienna FC and Badener AC. Unsurprisingly, like many soccer athletes, Linhart decided to take his ball skills to a different field, moving to the U.S. in 1972 to join the New Orlean Saints.
It wasn’t long before people started noticing Linhart’s talent in America, as the leading field goal scorer went on to play with the Baltimore Colts for over five seasons and was voted into the Pro Bowl twice. There is even an interview out there with the great Bill Belichick commenting on Linhart’s playing style, long before the legendary coach was associated with the New England Patriots.
Fast forward from the 70s to modern day, NFL fans may recognize the name Josh Lambo, as this football player was just recently in the sports news headlines after the Steelers released him from their practice squad. This means that Lambo is currently a free agent in the NFL, but what many do not know about him is that he once played as a goalkeeper!
Lambo played for FC Dallas and FC Tampa Bay, but, like the other athletes on this list, ultimately decided that kicking in the NFL was the path he wanted to take. Since this change in career over 10 years ago, the Michigan native has progressed greatly, becoming on the league’s best field goal kickers, with an accuracy percentage of approximately 91.6%.
So, there you have it! These are some examples of athletes that have graced both the football and soccer field during their playing careers. One thing’s for certain- although they are quite different, many fans enjoy watching either sport, attending live games in huge, high-capacity stadiums around the world.