Looking to NFL History to Determine Carli Lloyd’s Chances

A recent video of soccer star Carli Lloyd successfully kicking a 55 yard field goal has many people talking. The video, taken before a preseason game between the Eagles and Ravens, has made its rounds on the internet after “going viral” and has gotten played on many sports talk shows. The result has been that several NFL teams have reportedly contacted Lloyd about the possibility of kicking in the league one day. When asked about it in a recent interview, the USWNT forward said that she is “toying with the idea of potentially going for it.”

Though the viral video of Lloyd’s kick is undeniably impressive, some are skeptical of how a number of details would translate to the kicking that goes on in a game situation. First, during the clip Lloyd is wearing shorts and a t-shirt rather than full pads and a football helmet. Second, there is no defense attempting to block the kick that a game situation would have. Finally, since the entirety of the video is only 20 seconds long, it’s impossible to tell if Lloyd had any misses from any distance either before or after the video was shot.  Taking in these variables creates a much greater unknown when it comes to someone who has never played the sport on any level.

Although no female kickers have made it onto an NFL squad, a number of male soccer players have tried to do what Lloyd might attempt. Several men who have played “the other football” on the highest level have taken a crack at making the roster in the National Football League. Since this is the closest comparison we have to what Lloyd could be trying to do, it’s fair to look back at what happened in the NFL careers of these men to see how successful she might be. It’s also fair to consider that Lloyd is 37 years old and doesn’t plan on trying out as a place kicker until the 2020 NFL season. So her age in relation to these male counterparts should be considered as well.

The clearest American comparison to Lloyd would have to be that of Tony Meola, a goalie for the US Men’s National Team during the 1994 World Cup. The 25 year old Meola was then signed onto the New York Jets roster as a potential replacement for their existing kicker who was 38 years old (remember, Lloyd is 37). Unfortunately, he had a shaky technique and didn’t create enough hang time on his kickoffs to maximize their effectiveness. Meola was cut after his third preseason game and never ended up playing in regular season NFL contest.

Arguably the best NFL kicking career coming from a former soccer player was by that of Anton “Toni” Fritsch. As a professional striker in Austria, Fritsch won several championships in his home country and played on their national team. In 1971 he was discovered and signed by the Dallas Cowboys and went on to have an 11 year NFL career that also included the Chargers, Oilers and Saints. He would retire in 1982 but make a one year comeback in the USFL for the Houston Gamblers in the 1984 season.

Although Fritsch’s success might give Lloyd’s biggest fans some hope, it’s important to consider the age at which he accomplished these feats. When he first started playing for Dallas, Fritsch was 26. When he retired from the NFL he was 37 and his final season of football came a year before his 40th birthday. Lloyd would be just starting her NFL career, if she chooses to do so, at around the same age as Fritsch (the most successful soccer to NFL convert) ended his.
Support for Lloyd’s potential testing of the waters into NFL kicking has been notably supported by current Buffalo Bills kicker Steven Hauschka. Upon hearing about Lloyd’s possible NFL tryout, Hauschka told ESPN:

“if it’s something she really wants to do, not only will I help her out—if she wants it—but I hope she goes for it.”

Hauschka has an extensive soccer background where he initially went to a Division III school with the intent to play the sport there. Upon getting cut from the school’s soccer team, he ended up trying out for and making the football team as a place kicker.  Eventually he would up kicking for NC State before heading to the NFL. But it would be wise consider the fact that Hauschka was nearly 20 years younger than Lloyd is now when he attempted to switch between the two sports.

So without even getting into any possible gender differences between Lloyd and any of these aforementioned male athletes or discussing the potential of physical harm if a kick gets blocked, the ability of her to make this transition at this stage of her career will be very difficult to say the least. This isn’t to say that Lloyd shouldn’t attempt to accomplish this. In fact, it would make her achievement all that more impressive if she’s able to make it onto an NFL team and survive the cuts. But despite all of the hype surrounding this possibility, it’s apparent that Lloyd securing a spot on an NFL roster is a long shot when we look at the history of the league.