Justin Meram (Three for Thursday)
USA Today Sports

Three for Thursday: MLS players past and present who have featured in college football

The college football season is here, and depending on where you live and what sports you love, the madness is almost in full swing. But whether you're a football fan or not, you might be interested to find out that there is a pretty strong connection between the gridiron and the soccer field, with a number of MLS players having dabbled in the college game.

Unsurprisingly, the three players here are all kickers, but other notable players were high school football stars in other positions – US international and current Chivas USA defender Carlos Bocanegra was a highly-touted high school wide receiver and cornerback, while former FC Dallas left back Chris Gbandi was recruited by Texas as a cornerback. Here are three current or former MLS players who saw some time on a college football team:

Josh Lambo

Remember him? Once a big-time goalkeeping prospect who made appearances with the US U-17 and U-20 national teams, Lambo was the eighth-overall pick by FC Dallas in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft. Unfortunately, he failed to make a single appearance in MLS despite securing the backup spot.

Lambo did play briefly on loan in 2010 at FC Tampa Bay (now the Rowdies), but was ultimately waived by Dallas at the end of 2011.

Originally drafted straight out of high school, he enrolled in college at Texas A&M in 2012 and earned the backup placekicking job on the football team. He kicked a pair of extra points for the Aggies that season and will be on the sidelines alongside Johnny Manziel once more during the 2013 season.

Devin Barclay

Much like Lambo, Barclay was once a well-regarded soccer prospect who represented the United States at the youth international levels and even signed a Project-40 (think Generation adidas, youngsters) contract. He stuck around for four years in MLS, making appearances for Tampa Bay, San Jose, D.C. United and Columbus between 2001-2005, but could never match the three-goal, two-assist haul of his rookie season.

After retiring from soccer, Barclay (right, kicking) walked on to the Ohio State Buckeyes football team and earned the starting kicker job halfway through the 2009 season. His game-winning kick later that season earned Ohio State a Rose Bowl berth and helped guarantee him the starting spot in 2010. He would go 20-for-24 on field goals that season and never missed a point-after-touchdown attempt (PAT) during a successful college football career.

Justin Meram

This is a bit of a stretch, since the current Columbus Crew man did not see the field for the University of Michigan, at least in football, but he is probably the most well-known current MLS player to have dabbled in the college game.

Meram, the 15th-overall pick by the Crew in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, was a star placekicker and punter for his high school football team and spent the spring of his junior year practicing with the Wolverines' football team. He hit six of seven field goal attempts in the annual spring game that year, but ultimately decided to focus on soccer and has had a fine start to his time with the Crew.

Any other college football players-turned-MLSers (or the other way around) we missed? Let us know in the comments below.


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