In the 1970s, an Australian soccer star named Toni Fritsch came to the United States to try his hand – well, actually his foot – in the NFL. And for the next 14 years, playing for a variety of teams, Fritsch became one of the league’s most reliable kickers.
Of course, long before Fritsch came along, a Hungarian, Pete Gogolak, burst upon the scene in the 1960s, first at Cornell, and then in the AFL and NFL with the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants, bringing with him the concept of the side-swiping, soccer style kicking style now commonplace in the college and pro football.
So it’s not unusual anymore for soccer players in the United States to transition to football as kickers. But what’s really unusual is when perhaps the most famous soccer star in Great Britain says he wants to conclude his professional career as an NFL kicker.
You might recall Harry Kane, the young star who captained England in the last World Cup. He was one of the tournament’s most impactful and charismatic players.
He scored six goals, more World Cup goals than anyone, and helped his team to the semifinal for the first time since 1990. And now he is lighting up the Premier League playing forward for Tottenham Hotspur.
In recent interviews with ESPN and Sports Illustrated, Kane has admitted his infatuation with the NFL, which has played a number of regular season games in Great Britain to heighten its popularity in Europe.
“That’s real,” Kane told ESPN about his interest. “Something that in 10 or 12 years I definitely want to try. It goes back to that drive to be the best. Even if I download a game on my phone, can I be the best in the world? If you play in the Premier League and the World Cup and you then play in the NFL, would you then be considered one of the greatest sportsmen ever?”
Kane is just 25 years old, so we’re talking about him trying to make his impact in the NFL at a time many other players are winding down their careers. Of course, kicking is quite different, and as Adam Vinatieri, who is 46, and Sebastian Janikowski, who is 41, have shown is you can have a long career if your leg strength and accuracy remains intact.
Kane is having another great season. His one of four players tied for second in scoring with 17 goals in the Premier League. And he would not be alone in his aspirations to cross the pond and split the uprights.
According to CNN, Leicester City’s Christian Fuchs expressed an interest in the NFL in 2016.
“It’s a dream I want to follow,” Fuchs told the network. “It’s a goal I want to achieve. Why not? If I don’t try, I might not achieve it. Let’s see, it’s definitely an option for the future.”
Kane said his obsession with the NFL can be traced back to his admiration for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“I started watching him on YouTube,” Kane said. “We’ve had a similar path being doubted when we were younger. Maybe not being the best athletes as kids. It was quite a big inspiration. Not many people thought he’d become that good, or even play in the NFL, and he went on to become the best ever. At the time, it gave me a real boost to say, look, anything is possible. If you have that self-belief and that drive and that hunger, you can do it.
Kane even attended the New England’s Super Bowl LIII win over Atlanta. Brady was made aware of it and invited Kane to the postgame shindig in the team’s honor.
Kane said the transition to American football could begin with a few seasons in the pro soccer in the United States, something David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, two other major stars in Great Britain, have done.