When it comes to parallels that can be drawn between sports, at first glance there seem to be very few that can be made between the graceful perpetual movement of soccer and the stop-start nature of American football.
However, as the beautiful game gains traction with fans and television networks in the US – much in part to women’s soccer rather than their male counterparts doing anything worthwhile – there are an increasing amount of NFL stars who laced up soccer boots long before they donned an NFL helmet.
Here are some of the NFL players who were discovered while they were playing soccer, only to be lured away to the dark side, by pom poms, whooping and only having to play a couple of minutes per game rather than a grueling ninety of them at least once a week.
Odell Beckham Jr.
With a name like his, it is almost assumed that there must be some sort of connection between this Cleveland Browns player and the legendary soccer player who now runs Inter Miami.
Although there is no blood connection between David and Odell, the latter did initially ply his trade as a soccer player, even being offered a try-out by the US junior national setup.
In the end Beckham Jr. was put off by the fact that to make it big in soccer he would most likely have to up sticks and move to Europe. His enormous hands and catching ability would also have been sorely wasted on the soccer field, unless he decided to play in goal.
Many NFL stars were dragged from the soccer side lines and thrust into the world of gridiron
If you spend a large amount of your youth growing up in the UK, you can be sure to pick up a thing or two from its soccer obsessed population, and that is exactly what happened to Miami Dolphins star Jay Ajayi, who only ended up ditching soccer in the end because his training regime clashed with that of his budding American football career.
Like many players on this list, he lauds plenty of praise on soccer practice and footwork drills, which he says gave him the skills he displays out on NFL game days.
So much of being a great soccer player is being able to make runs into space that no one else sees, leaving you wide open to receive that killer pass before slotting the ball past a helpless goalkeeper.
An NFL receiver requires a very similar skill set, and that is why Wes Welker has always said that his early grounding in soccer is what made him the NFL crusher that he is and was.
Although he has hung up his own boots these days, he now extols the virtues of skills learned from soccer to his new charges at the San Francisco 49ers, where he is preparing the franchise’s wide receivers to defy regular-season NFL odds and to reach the playoffs in the process. At least in American football Welker does not have to worry about his team getting relegated if it all goes badly wrong.
Agility and fleet-footedness are two things that pro soccer players and American football players share in abundance
A pupil of Welker’s former coach Dana Holgorsen during their days together at West Virginia, Karl Joseph immediately thrived in American football, finding that his soccer skills directly impacted how quickly he could race to the opposition quarterback to sack him.
Like soccer players, he is also prone to foot injuries, with his most recent one keeping him on the sidelines during the off season with the Cleveland Browns.
More Synergies Between the Two Sports Are Bound to Occur
With the NFL actively looking to recruit talent from outside of the US, especially searching for kickers in the world of soccer, it seems only a matter of time before more former soccer players find their way into shoulder pads and latex pants.