The Chargers took a calculated gamble with their placekicking duties in 2015, but that risk paid huge dividends as Josh Lambo became one of the NFL’s top kickers.
In August, the Chargers cut ties with veteran Nick Novak, the second-most accurate kicker in franchise history, and they handed the job to Lambo, a 24-year-old undrafted rookie from Texas A&M. Lambo’s leg strength wowed the Chargers brass, as did a 53-yard field goal in the preseason and later a 47-yarder as time expired to give the Chargers a 22-19 preseason win.
From there, Lambo simply went on to become the top rookie kicker in the NFL and an All-Rookie selection in 2015. He scored a rookie-leading 106 points, making 26 of 32 field goals (81.3 pct.) and 28 of 32 PATs (87.5). He made 19 of his last 23 field goal attempts to close out the season and went 15 of 22 on the season from beyond 40 yards, with a long of 54. Lambo’s only misses last season were from 42, 47, 48 (three times) and 60 yards. He made seven of his eight field goal attempts in the fourth quarter, including a 54-yarder for a 20-17 lead over Pittsburgh with 2:56 left on Oct. 12, a game-tying 49 yarder to tie the game at 26-26 with 2:27 remaining on Nov. 1 in Baltimore, and a game-tying 47-yarder with 1:00 left in the fourth quarter Dec. 24 at Oakland.
Lambo’s 106 points tied for second in franchise history by a rookie and he recorded a team-record 41 touchbacks on 73 kickoffs, second in the NFL in 2015 among rookies.
Lambo wasn’t like most of the other undrafted rookies when he originally signed with the team in May. Even though he’d come to the Chargers from Texas A&M, Lambo had been a professional international soccer player in his late teens. At the age of 14, Lambo was one of the United States’ top young goalkeeping prospects. He was invited to leave home and train with the U.S. National Team in Bradenton, Florida. Within a year, Lambo had joined Everton FC of European soccer’s Premier League as a trialist where he trained alongside long-time U.S. Soccer star Tim Howard. That experience helped Lambo land a spot on the United States’ Under-17 and later Under-20 Teams that would both play for the World Cup.
In 2008, Lambo was the No. 8 overall pick in Major League Soccer’s (MLS) draft by FC Dallas. As fate would have it, that would be the beginning of the end of Lambo’s career on the pitch. Over the course of the next four years, Lambo dealt with a broken jaw, minimal playing time and several coaching changes that all but ended his future in both the MLS and with Team U.S. Soccer.
After being waived by the MLS in 2012, Lambo returned to Wisconsin to ponder his future. Encouraged by his mom, Irene, who suggested he finish college and try his hand at placekicking, Lambo sought assistance from former University of Wisconsin kicker Tyler Mehlhaff, who also had kicked for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints. Lambo’s older brother, Zack, had played soccer at Wisconsin at the same time Mehlhaff kicked for the Badgers and he helped put them in touch. Mehlhaff helped Lambo refine his kicking swing and within a matter of months, Lambo enrolled at Texas A&M where he walked onto the football team.
Lambo played sparingly for the Aggies in 2012, but he won the placekicking job in College Station in 2013 and over the course of the 2013-14 seasons, he hit kicks at an astonishing rate, converting 21 of 25 field goals with a long of 50 and 109 of 110 point after tries. One of those made field goals was a 33-yarder as time expired to give Texas A&M a 41-38 win over Mississippi in 2013 for the Aggies’ first walk-off victory in more than two decades.
Lambo and Mehlhaff have remained friends and the two still train together when Lambo finds himself back home in Wisconsin.
TRANSACTION HISTORY: Signed with Chargers May 12, 2015.
2015: Pro Football Writers of America, Mel Kiper and Pro Football Journal All-Rookie...NFL debut Sept. 13 vs. Detroit...four touchbacks and 2-for-2 on field goal tries vs. Lions...first NFL game-winning FG (34 yards) with no time on clock for 30-27 win over Cleveland Oct. 4...missed 39-yard attempt wide right, but Browns were flagged for being offside and subsequent 34-yard attempt split uprights...also hit from 46 and 45 in game to go along with three touchbacks and team-high two special teams tackles...with 2:56 left in fourth quarter of first Monday Night Football game Oct. 12 vs. Pittsburgh, hit team rookie record 54-yard field goal for 20-17 lead...also tied for third-longest field goal in franchise history...extended streak of made field goals to eight with 42 and 49 yarders Nov. 1 at Baltimore...49-yarder tied game at 26-26 with 2:27 left in fourth quarter...52-yard field goal for Bolts’ only points Nov. 22 vs. Kansas City...had all six kickoffs go for touchbacks during 31-25 win at Jacksonville Nov. 29...first-quarter 48-yard miss Dec. 6 vs. Denver snapped streak of 12-straight made field goals...bounced back and converted 51-yarder in second quarter...21st-career made field goal Dec. 13 at Kansas City to tie Wade Richey and Vince Abbott for 10th in team history...game-tying 45-yard field goal with 1:00 left in fourth quarter Dec. 24 at Oakland...in Jan. 3 season finale at Denver, hit field goal tries from 50 and 42, as well as point after try from 38 due to penalty, and all five kickoffs vs. Broncos went for touchbacks.
COLLEGE: Second-team All-SEC and Capital One Academic All-District as senior in 2014...converted 84.0 percent of field goal tries (21 of 25) to become most accurate kicker in school history...hit 111 of 112 career point after tries...game ball after kicking game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expired in 2013 win over Ole Miss...named to 2013 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll...began career at Collin College...played at Texas A&M from 2012-14...agricultural leadership and renewable natural resources degree.
PERSONAL: Born in Lansing, Michigan...began prep career at Middleton (Wis.) High before moving to Edison Academic Center in Bradenton, Florida.