Lessons learned by the NFL's semi-finalists (Part-2)

When you’re playing soccer, most of the time you’re chopping at the ball – inside-of-the-foot ball, long pass,” says former Miami Dolphins kicker Olindo Mare, who tried out for Miami Fusion in the early 2000s. “Your head is always up. Always glancing around. Conversely, kicking requires your head to be down throughout impact. That was toughest. I had to quit playing soccer in June during the NFL offseason to focus on being calm.

Stephen Hauschka, who played collegiate soccer before winning Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seattle Seahawks, says kick height may also make a transfer difficult. “It’s similar to kicking a soccer ball, but 20–30% different,” he explains. “You need good ball lift. Soccer seldom involves high-altitude kicks. In American football, you lock on the ball hard and swing up through it to gain the lift, but in soccer you want to get your knee over the ball and keep it low.

Also, hitting the ball feels different. Catching a soccer shot perfectly is different from hitting a field goal. It takes getting accustomed to.

“The soccer ball is really forgiving,” Hauschka explains. Use any foot part to kick it. Footballs are stiff. The leather is harsh. You must kick a quarter-sized area on a football an inch below the center. Hit that with your bone. A toe strike doesn't move it."

Former soccer players must adjust most on gameday. They now spend much of the game on the sideline after playing for 90 minutes with all 22 players defending, attacking, and transitioning between phases. Waiting for the special teams unit to be called upon and being ready for the specific pressure it brings is like a soccer player going on to attempt a penalty shootout kick.

“Many soccer players can probably make 30-, 40-, 50-yarders,” adds Mare. “Can you do it under pressure? Can you endure Monday morning when the whole country criticizes you? Can you do it again next week?

Hauschka admits that NFL kicks are typically under immense strain. “That’s the biggest transition from soccer player to kicker,” adds Hauschka. “Every play feels like a penalty. It's crucial to learn how to focus on your kick and execute it confidently rather than shakily. I think many kickers admit to feeling nervous out there, but they still swing confidently

That pressure will be most for the Super Bowl on Sunday. After seeing how quickly and successfully Aubrey and Butker carried their soccer abilities to the NFL, would others follow?