Harry Kane has expressed a serious desire to become an NFL kicker
Harry Kane’s claim earlier this year that he has “one eye on” a career as an NFL kicker once his football days are over was just the latest occasion that England’s captain has expressed an interest in a change of sport. There is nothing imminent. He envisions that any switch is at least a decade away. But he insists his desire to play in the NFL is real.
So how feasible are Kane’s ambitions?Although the striker hit a 50-yard field goal during a session with the New York Jets in 2017, that was a stationary ball on a kicking tee with no opposition, no pressure and no ticking clock. As Morten Andersen, the former New Orleans Saints kicker and record appearance holder in the NFL, pointed out recently, there is so much more to the role than that. “It is ludicrous to think you can just step in and do it at that level,” said Andersen. “I want the fans to understand that I don’t feel disrespected, but there is more to it than meets the eye.” He added that Kane could be “in for a rude awakening” before posing a question of his own. “If it was that easy,” he wondered, “why hasn’t it been done by somebody yet?” Morten Andersen, the NFL’s record appearance holder, in action However, it is not completely accurate to claim this has not been done before. Josh Lambo, a former Unites States U20 international goalkeeper, has successfully made the transition to becoming a kicker for the Jacksonville Jaguars. But Kane does not have to look quite so far away – he would not even be the first Tottenham and England striker to do it.Clive Allen once scored 49 goals in a season for Spurs – even Kane has not managed that – before going on to enjoy an unlikely stint as kicker for the London Monarchs in NFL Europe.”I just felt the opportunity to play another professional sport was too good to miss,” Allen tells Sky Sports. “I had followed it a little bit in the 1980s when it first came on television in this country but to think that I could actually do it. It was the buzz of the challenge and the competition. I really enjoyed it. The NFL experience was fantastic for me.” Clive Allen was a kicker for the London Monarchs in NFL Europe in 1997 Allen was a coach at Tottenham during Kane’s formative years and understands the player’s mentality to succeed better than most. Yet, he has sympathy too for Andersen. He found out for himself the skill-set required to become an efficient NFL kicker has little in common with the qualities that saw him become a regular goalscorer at the highest level.”It is a very different technique to the one that you adopt when playing football,” Allen explains. “That’s the challenge. It took me a considerable amount of time just to hone my technique because the knee has to be locked and the toe has to be pointed. You would never kick a soccer ball in that way so it did take a lot of practice and a lot of perseverance.”To a degree, the kick is controlled because the stepping off and the distance that you are coming from is consistent. But when the ball is snapped to the holder, you have to get the kick away very quickly because they are trying to block it and get across the flight of the ball.”You are moving towards the holder as the centre is snapping the ball back to him so you have to start your run before the ball has actually been snapped. Those timings have to be honed. The kickers in the NFL make that all look very simple but, believe me, it is not.” Allen has opened up on the physical, mental and technical challenges of the role Allen devotes an entire chapter in his newly-released autobiography to his adventures with the Monarchs, but he is frank about the fact he struggled initially. Just as the former US goalkeeper Tony Meola discovered during his abortive attempt to become a placekicker for the New York Jets, there was a tendency to hook the kick because of that slightly bent knee.It was a technical flaw that was eventually put right thanks to the hard work put in during a trip to Florida in which Allen worked with Doug Blevins, the Miami Dolphins kicking coach. After overcoming his shock that the man charged with helping him kick was wheelchair-bound, Allen came to see Blevins as a genius once the nuances of his new job became clear. Miami Dolphins kicking coach Doug Blevins was a huge influence on Allen “Working with him really helped me,” Allen said. “It was the attention to detail and the way that he analysed my kicking technique. He helped me to kick that American football. But more than that, I discovered the importance of specialist coaching. That is something that, later in my career, I adapted into my own coaching by focusing on individual sessions much more.”Allen’s record that season was mixed. His field-goal record was actually very impressive – he converted six out of six. No mean feat given that Andersen’s own field-goal conversion rate was around 80 per cent over his career, although it should be noted many of those misses were from much further out than anything that the former soccer player attempted. 1:44 Go behind the scenes to see how Tottenham’s stadium adapted to the NFL Go behind the scenes to see how Tottenham’s stadium adapted to the NFL It was Allen’s record on PATs – points after touchdown – that was more problematic. It is the easier aspect of the job but he missed three of his 10 attempts. That record would see Kane cut in no time in the ruthless world of NFL. But there were mitigating circumstances that hint at another problem Kane could face if he hopes to make the transition himself.”We didn’t have a particularly good line,” says Allen. “So there were a couple of times that they were able to break through and hit the holder as the ball was snapped back to him.”It got a bit hairy a couple of times. I ended up being involved in two scrimmages where the ball was still live rather than it being killed. It’s not the place to be so I was fortunate not to get hit. It was quite something. The actual noise and the violence of it is incredible when you witness it first-hand. Everything is so explosive. The power around you is amazing.” Lloyd reveals NFL kicker ambitions Two-time Women’s World Cup winner Carli Lloyd says she is seriously considering a future as a pro kicker in the NFL It is this feature of the challenge that has caused some discomfort regarding the suggestion that Carli Lloyd, a two-time World Cup winner with the Unites States women’s national team, could also make the switch to NFL. Lloyd caused a sensation in the summer when she nailed a 55-yard field goal during a practice with the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Eagles.The subsequent buzz included several invitations from NFL teams to pursue it further. “I know that there are loads of people that are saying, you know, big men coming at you,” said Lloyd. “I don’t know. I’d have to seriously go out to the field. Helmet, pads, two-step, really get the technique down, really practise it and then kind of see from there if it’s possible.”What Lloyd and Kane share is a work ethic and commitment that has helped them rise to the top of their chosen profession. That mentality helps to explain why, for all the complications, however much Kane would find himself out of his comfort zone, Allen is unwilling to rule out his chances of embarking on a second career. Liverpool vs Tottenham October 27, 2019, 4:00pm Live on “You can imagine, there is so much going on around you in American football that you have to be 100 per cent focused on what you are doing as a kicker,” he says. “But knowing Harry as I do having worked with him, he is someone who has worked tirelessly on his game to become one of the best strikers in world football, so I know he has the mentality for it.”Throughout his career, at every stage of it, he has dealt with the challenge. He has scored goals and he has improved himself. He would be able to adapt. In fact, I think he would go on to become very good at it. He has a strong leg and he can strike a ball well. Having that feel when you strike the ball is very important. He would take to it.”It is something that as his football career finishes he could turn to afterwards. He would still be physically capable of doing it, for sure.” Becoming an NFL kicker is more complicated than some might think. But even Andersen, for all his scepticism, acknowledges it is not ridiculous to suggest that with hard work and determination a top-class football player could pull it off. It is just going to take someone with technical excellence, incredible mental strength and unusual single-mindedness.Intriguingly, that person sounds a lot like Harry Kane. Soccer Saturday Super 6 FREE TO PLAY: Do not miss your chance to land the £250,000 jackpot for the fifth time this year!