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Friday, January 31, 2014
Pele says he tried out for Giants

ESPN.com news services

Pele says the New York Giants invited him to be a kicker after retiring from soccer with the Cosmos.

Pele
Pele says the New York Giants invited him to play football after he retired from soccer in 1977.

The Brazilian great says he was asked to join the NFL team after he "did well" in a few tryouts. But he decided not to accept the invitation because he didn't want to take on more responsibilities at the time.

The 73-year-old Pele said in an interview with ESPN Brasil in New York that kicking "wasn't too hard for him," but he didn't want to return to sports after a long soccer career. He did not say exactly when he received the invitation.

Pele led Brazil to three World Cup titles and scored more than 1,000 goals. He retired from the Cosmos in 1977.

The NFL's interest in Pele was not unique. In 1974, the New England Patriots had signed John Smith, an Englishman and former soccer player in his youth. Smith spent 10 years with the Patriots.

Around the time of Pele's invitation to join the Giants, the Cincinnati Bengals had signed another North American Soccer League player, Chris Bahr, who went on to have a 14-year NFL career.

Matt Bahr also played in the NASL in 1978 before being selected in the 1979 NFL draft. He played in the NFL for 17 years and won two Super Bowls, one with the Giants in 1991.

Following the 1994 World Cup, the New York Jets brought in U.S. goalkeeper Tony Meola, who kicked off five times during the preseason but failed to make the team.

More recently, college teams have looked to former soccer players to join as kickers.

Devin Barclay played four seasons in Major League Soccer before walking on to kick consistently for Ohio State in 2009 and 2010.

Josh Lambo spent four years on FC Dallas' roster, never played in a game and is now the starting kicker for Texas A&M.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.