Like most training camp players, Josh Lambo grew up proving himself on a field.
It just wasn’t a football field.
For the rookie kicker, soccer was his first love – so much so that FC Dallas drafted him out of high school in the first round (eighth overall) of the 2008 Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
Lambo broke his jaw early in his inaugural season, and the head coach who drafted him was fired shortly after. Lambo's career stalled and never really recovered.
When FC Dallas didn’t renew his contract in 2011, he decided to change course.
“Seventeen years of my life was dedicated to soccer,” Lambo said after a recent training camp practice. “But, you have to make a big-boy decision every now and then. That was it for me, so I decided to go back to college.”
Although Lambo already had a two-year degree he had received from taking online courses, he wanted a four-year degree.
“At first I thought: ‘Okay, it looks like sports is out of the equation. I need to get a degree so I can get a real job,’” Lambo said. “Then I decided since I was going to college anyways, I might as well try to kick.”
Lambo had never played (American) football to that point, but it just so happened that his brother had a friend -- former New Orleans Saints kicker Taylor Mehlhaff – who offered to teach him how to kick. He sent out some tape, and soon after, Texas A&M came calling. Lambo left the university as the most accurate kicker in school history, making 21 of 25 attempts (83.3 percent), including a long of 50 yards in 2014.
Now in training camp as an undrafted free agent, Lambo is competing with veteran Nick Novak for the starting job.
“It’s been great,” Lambo said. “This is a great group of guys. Really great locker room. Excellent atmosphere. A couple guys have really taken me under their wing, like Danny Woodhead – he was one of the first guys I talked to when I walked in the locker room. [Mike] Windt and [Mike] Scifres have just been phenomenal as far as just leading me and guiding me, and pushing me when I need to be pushed a little bit.”
Still, it’s worlds away from the soccer pitch, something that isn’t lost on the 24-year-old from Lansing, Michigan.
“It’s a professional locker room, but it’s definitely not the same,” Lambo said, smiling. “The MLS is not the NFL. It’s a different breed. Even just as far as in the locker room, having three times as many guys.
“It’s a different culture, a different environment, but it’s great all the same.”