Josh Lambo was once named man of the match for the United States in an Under-17 World Cup game against a Belgium side that featured Eden Hazard and Christian Benteke.
He was also once playing under ex-Arsenal defender Steve Morrow at FC Dallas, after being on the cusp of a move to Everton during David Moyes’ tenure at Goodison Park before red tape denied him his big break.
But by the age of 21, and another rejection from Sheffield United behind him, football as Lambo knew it was over. In May last year he signed a contract as a free agent with the NFL’s San Diego Chargers to compete for the team's kicker position.
Stuck on Toffees
It all started on an Everton pre-season tour of the States in 2006.
“My goalkeeping coach was Tim [Howard]'s coach in New Jersey,” says Lambo, speaking in the February 2016 issue of FourFourTwo, out now. “I flew down to Texas to train, then the following November I went over to Liverpool.
“But I didn't have my European paperwork. I was working to get dual citizenship from Greece, but it took a while. When I got it, I went back the next year but they had changed their mind on me. I was six feet tall at 16 years old and that's pretty good. But six feet tall at 17 isn't so good.”
Off to college
Circumstances conspired against Lambo thereafter. Morrow was sacked during his rookie season in Dallas, who eventually released him in 2011. A trial with Sheffield United came and went, as did a summer spent with D.C. United, so Lambo decided to jack it all in and head home.
“I knew I was going back to college and I figured I may as well try to kick for their football team,” he says. “I learned from a friend of my brother, Taylor Mehlhaff, who played in the NFL for a season. He taught me how to convert my soccer swing into a football swing.
“The biggest difference is obviously the shape of the ball. An American football's sweet spot is about two inches higher... that's a big difference. But I got to be pretty good at it pretty quickly.”
College football went well for the 25-year-old, who as a result was invited to NFL trials and subsequently signed by the Chargers. His current team have struggled in 2015 with four wins and 12 defeats to their name, and rookie Lambo converting 26 of his 32 field goal attempts (with 87.5% success).
But having experienced both, which kind of football truly floats his boat?
“Soccer is more enjoyable for me, just because I'm in the game a lot more,” he concedes. “But looking back on my transition from soccer to football and what could have been, I can't complain. I'm very happy.”
Interview: Glenn Price.
Read the full interview with Josh Lambo in the February 2016 issue of FourFourTwo, which also features a One-on-One interview with Eric Abidal and reveals the truth about the most misunderstood player of a generation: Francesco Totti. Also in the magazine: an exclusive interview with Everton talisman Romelu Lukaku, remembering Sven-Goran Eriksson’s appointment as England manager 15 years ago, Bolton’s fall from grace and five Football Players who have gone back to school to help safeguard their futures. Subscribe!
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