To be an elite athlete who enjoys a professional sporting career is one thing, but to be good enough to turn pro in two different sports? That’s something else altogether.
Brandon Aubrey was drafted by Major League Soccer (MLS) team Toronto FC in 2017 before spending time playing for their reserve team and USL club Bethlehem Steel. But as his soccer career floundered, a random conversation with a loved one on the sofa made Aubrey seriously consider a switch to pro football.
Cowboys Riding High
Five years after his soccer career ended, Aubrey is the first-choice placekicker for the Dallas Cowboys, with whom things are going relatively well. As it stands, sportsbooks like Sports Interaction price the Cowboys at odds of +1000 to win the Super Bowl in 2024, which puts them just behind the San Francisco 49ers (+450), Kansas City Chiefs (+500), Philadelphia Eagles (+750), Miami Dolphins (+900) and Buffalo Bills (+900).
Aubrey wouldn’t be the first former soccer player to appear at the Super Bowl, but he would certainly be the first in decades to make the move so successfully.
“You could do that” were the words spoken to Aubrey by a loved one as they watched an NFL game together in 2019. The placekicker had just missed his shot, although what appears to look so easy on TV is, with the huge pressure of playing pro football applied, altogether more complex. But Aubrey must have felt some inclination for the sport as he embarked on a four-year kicking journey – swapping the round soccer sphere for the football – with private sessions with former Mississippi State coach Brian Egan booked in three times a week.
Fast forward to 2022 – the 28-year-old was picked up by the Birmingham Stallions for their USFL campaign, ending the season with an impressive 81.8% field goal success rate. With an average of 66.5 yards on kickoff, the Dallas Cowboys were suitably intrigued.
Game-winning field goal vibes 😎🤙
Aubrey is now 16-for-16 on field goals this year. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/OAutPI4TRy
— USFL (@USFL) October 17, 2023
They handed Aubrey a contract, and after six weeks of the 2023 season, he’s a perfect 16 from 16 – the tied-fourth-best start to a campaign for a rookie. And it gets better: if he slots his next three attempts successfully, the Cowboy would break the record for the most sustained perfect start to a season from a rookie kicker.
The records tumbled when Anton ‘Toni’ Fritsch moved from soccer to football in the 1970s.
He became, and remains, the only person to win titles in both professional soccer and the NFL, having lifted the Austrian championship with Rapid Vienna and represented the Austria national team on nine occasions.
Fritsch then made the leap into football as an undrafted free agent with – irony of ironies – the Dallas Cowboys. He made his NFL debut in 1971, and although injuries would blight that season, the Austrian would clinch a Super Bowl ring as part of the roster that prevailed against the Miami Dolphins at Super Bowl VI.
Later stints at the Chargers and the Saints sandwiched a run with the Houston Oilers, where he was selected for All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 1979.
So, Fritsch blazed a trail for soccer players in the NFL… Can Aubrey emulate his achievements?