Name: Josh Lambo
College: Texas A&M
NFL games played: 32
Games played for the Chargers: 32
Fun fact: You may know that Josh Lambo was once a professional soccer player - but did you know that ESPN once said that for Lambo ‘the sky is the limit?'
Josh Lambo is unique for an NFL player because he's one of the few that didn't play Football as their first professional sport. Instead, Lambo started off playing
the real kind of football you know the one that's actually played with your feet oh America you guys are so stupid soccer.
Once touted as a very promising Goalkeeping prospect, Lambo had been at his High School for all of two months before he was invited to join the US Residency Program, a move which meant leaving Wisconsin for a long journey to Florida. According to their website, the US Residency Program provided some of the hottest young talents in American soccer a residency at which they'd have access to world class facilities, train every day under the guidance of US U17 National Coaches, and still be provided with an education. Sounds great - except in March 2017 they announced that the program would be closing down. Oh well. At least you guys have Christian Pulisic.
Lambo made his debut for the USA U17 team against England in 2005, playing against a side that included Theo Walcott, now a soccer player for Arsenal. In 2007, he represented the USA U17s at the U17 World Cup, and received the Man of the Match award in a game against Belgium, who's team included Premier League star Eden Hazard and Premier League... soccer player, Christian Benteke.
That wasn't Lambo's only connection with the Premier League, either. EPL side Everton were seriously interested in Lambo as a 15-year-old, having spotted him on a club tour of America after a recommendation from Everton and USA Goalkeeper Tim Howard. Lambo was invited to join Everton on the remainder of their US tour and was then brought over to England to trial for the club.
The trial went well, as Lambo was offered a contract - if he could get a European passport. Lambo's Greek heritage meant that it was possible, but it took him nearly a year to get it. When he went back to Everton a year later, their interest had cooled. According to Lambo, his size may have been the reason why: "I was six feet tall at 16 years old and that's pretty good. But six feet tall at 17 isn't so good."
Lambo went on to be drafted by FC Dallas with the #8 overall pick in the MLS Superdraft, but things never really worked out for him. After breaking his jaw, having the coach that drafted him get fired and being loaned out to lower league team FC Tampa Bay, Lambo was released by FC Dallas without ever playing an MLS game. After unsuccessful trials with D.C. United and Sheffield United in England, Lambo decided it was time to hang up his boots at the age of 21.
So, what does a 21-year-old now ex-professional soccer player do? Well, for Lambo, he goes to college and tries to win a starting kicker job. Lambo enrolled at Texas A&M in 2012 and won the job in 2013. Two years later, he was leaving Texas A&M as the most accurate kicker in their history. Job done.
You might expect a big adjustment in moving from soccer to football, but there wasn't for Lambo. Or, as he succinctly put it: "Well, swinging your leg is swinging your leg." Lambo simply has leg talent that not many people do - when he was younger, he'd won a National punt, pass and kick competition that took place at Heinz Field before a Steelers playoff game.
One thing that undoubtedly helped Lambo is the fact that he played as a Goalkeeper in soccer, rather than outfield. As a goalkeeper, you spend a lot of time practicing your goal kicks, where the aim is to drill a soccer ball a long way downfield with incredible accuracy - your target is about the size of the head and chest of your teammate. If your teammate happens to be Dimitar Berbatov, your target is about an inch, because if it's not perfectly placed on his head he's not moving to get it.
There's a different technique to kicking a football and kicking a soccer ball, sure, but Lambo didn't find it too hard to adjust. "It was just raising my point of contact up on a football because a soccer ball sits lower to the ground, and it (comes down to) if you can kick a ball, then you can kick a ball. That's about it."
I must admit, I thought that Lambo did a much better job of mastering the new technique as an NFL Player in his rookie year in 2015 than he did in 2016, but he actually went 26/32 both years on FGs, with an accuracy of 81.3%. However, he did make 4/5 FGs from 50+ yards in 2015, whereas he didn't connect on a single one in 2016, going 0/3. He also missed four XPs in both years - although three were blocked in 2016, whereas Lambo just flat out missed three in 2015.
Regardless of whether he improved or regressed, Lambo definitely hasn't performed as well as fans might have hoped when he displaced Nick Novak for the starting kicker job in 2015. Now that the Chargers have bought in Younghoe Koo as preseason competition - who we profiled yesterday - Lambo is going to have to prove to the new coaching staff that he's the right man for the job. If he can't, he might become an ex-professional football player. Again.