Lloyd's route to NFL quite a kick

Former soccer player from England waits patiently with Ravens

October 27, 2007|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun reporter

Ravens kicker Rhys Lloyd's journey to an NFL career began with a ripped-up knee and a cracked wall.

The knee belonged to Lloyd's father, Bryn, a soccer player who toiled in relative anonymity in England's lower professional leagues until the injury forced him to bring his family to a faraway place called Minnesota to start a second career as a coach.

The cracked wall was the result of Bryn's son taking his turn at kicking an American football during a high school trip to Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Florida. The younger Lloyd visited an exhibit called "The NFL Experience" and promptly cracked a concrete wall with one of his blasts.

The next thing Rhys Lloyd knew, he was a kicker at Eastview High School in Apple Valley, Minn.

"The first time he kicked off in a game, he kicked it out of the end zone and everyone went absolutely berserk and I didn't get that because in soccer you're supposed to keep it on the field," said Bryn Lloyd, who was the soccer coach at Eastview High School as well as director of the state's Olympic development program.

Said Lloyd, 25: "When I first saw the game, I was completely lost. A lot of stops and starts and yellow flags flying around. But I think once I started pursuing a career in football, through college [at Minnesota], obviously the goal was always the NFL."

The goal now is to get on the field for the Ravens. Signed during the preseason ostensibly for kickoffs and possibly to try long field-goal attempts, Lloyd has yet to be active through the team's first seven games. He has been waived three times to open a roster spot, most recently last week, and re-signed each time.

Unlike many in his position, Lloyd said he hoped that his phone wouldn't ring when he was put on waivers, wishing to remain in Baltimore as Matt Stover's backup. Though the chances of Lloyd getting added to the active roster seem remote given Stover's durability, Lloyd doesn't mind being an insurance policy.

"Eventually his leg will wear out," Lloyd said jokingly about Stover last week. "He's been saying to me that his leg is getting a little tired."

As for the constant uncertainty surrounding the official start of his career, Lloyd laughed.

"It's been crazy, not knowing where you're going to be from week to week," he said. "But I've gotten used to being here, and I really like Baltimore. I would like to stay with the Ravens."

A former junior player for the renowned Chelsea soccer club in England, Lloyd gave up that dream when the family moved to the United States, where he was an all-state soccer player for four straight years in high school and later a junior college All-America kicker in Rochester, Minn.

Undrafted after kicking and punting for two years at the University of Minnesota, Lloyd wound up in the Ravens' training camp in 2005 but was cut quickly. He spent last spring in the now-defunct NFL Europa with the Frankfurt Galaxy, where he made a league-record 56-yard field goal.

Lloyd got another shot when the Ravens invited him back to McDaniel College this summer.

Because of visa problems, Lloyd didn't make it to Westminster until two days before camp broke. In his first practice, he put a couple of kickoffs into the end zone, then made a 55-yard field goal in the preseason finale in Atlanta and earned a spot on the 53-man roster.

"I thought I had a chance to make it before that kick," he said a few days later. "But that was the icing on the cake."

Now comes the question: Will Lloyd ever get on the field for the Ravens?

Given that Stover, 39, hasn't missed an NFL game because of injury during his 17-plus seasons and remains one of the league's most reliable kickers, Lloyd has been a spare and very disposable part. Lloyd knows that he might have to eventually start his career elsewhere, but for now he doesn't mind being Stover's apprentice.

"It's been great working with Matt," Lloyd said. "Obviously the guy's a Hall of Fame kicker. Someone like me, who's somewhat young in the league, it's been a great experience."

Said Lloyd's father: "At the end of the day, he's in a very fortunate position to do what he's doing. He's learning his trade, which is not a bad thing."

Just waiting for his chance to crack another wall, this time in a real NFL experience.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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