You rarely see players trying a “rabona” during soccer matches. And the last place you’d expect to see one is during an American football game.
But Rice senior kicker Chris Boswell, a soccer player since the age of three, used the signature fútbol move to pull off an onside kick that nearly helped the Owls beat rivals Houston in a college game played at Reliant Stadium last Saturday.
The rabona – where a player switches his plant leg at the last moment to kick a ball – is a move that Boswell learned early on in life from his dad, who grew up playing soccer in Brazil. But it was only three weeks ago during practice that Boswell thought of bringing it up to his Rice coaches as an option for use during games.
WATCH: Dempsey's rabona vs. RSL
The moment came on Saturday. With Rice down 31-26 to the Cougars and only 2:19 to go, the Owls needed to execute an onside kick to have any hope of winning.
“It was kind of like, ‘What else can we do?’” Boswell told MLSsoccer.com. “We told him, ‘We have the behind-the-back kick, the diversion kick.’ And coach said, ‘Let’s go with it.”
Expecting Boswell's onside kick to come down the left, Houston overloaded that side of the field. But they weren't expecting a rabona out of the Keller, Texas, native, which sent the ball to the opposite side where Houston only had three players lined up.
The trick move worked. Rice recovered the kick.
“I felt so confident practicing it so much and every time it would go 10 yards,” Boswell said. “When we looked over and saw only three Houston players on that side of the hash, I had a pretty good feeling that it was going to work.
“They definitely know it’s a soccer move but no one has ever seen it done on a football field with a football,” continued Boswell, who played for the Nissi Soccer Club in Fort Worth. “It caught a lot of our teammates by surprise. The entire sideline just went crazy.“
The rabona has been tried before on a football field, but it was before Boswell was even born. The Dallas Cowboys once had an Austrian kicker, Toni Fritsch, who pulled it off successfully during a famous 1972 NFL playoff win (read about it here).
But that distant memory probably won’t affect all the attention that has fallen on Boswell in recent days. Numerous sports blogs and sites have featured his kick even though Rice could not take advantage of the onside kick recovery and lost the game.
Knee surgery in high school and a football scholarship from Rice may have brought an end to Boswell's soccer career. But he can still thank the game for what will surely be one of the most memorable football moments of his career.
“All of this is crazy,” he said. “Just kicking a football and executing an onside kick. I didn’t think all this would come out of it.”