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Updated: June 9th, 2010 8:29pm
Q&A with Rhys Lloyd: Choosing football over soccer was hard decision

Q&A with Rhys Lloyd: Choosing football over soccer was hard decision

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Rhys Lloyd will be on the field when the Minnesota Vikings open minicamp on Friday, but his mind probably will be elsewhere.

The World Cup kicks off the same day, with Lloyd's home country -- he was born in Dover, England -- scheduled to face the U.S. in a pool-play match on Saturday.

"That's my only drive right now," Lloyd said last week with a smile, "is to make it to June 12."

Lloyd's father, Bryn, played professional soccer in England and moved the family to Minnesota to take a coaching job when Lloyd was 15.

After four years of playing midfielder for his father during the week and place-kicker on Fridays for the football team at Eastview High School in Apple Valley, Lloyd had scholarship offers in both sports.

He decided to pursue football -- two years of polishing on the field and in the classroom at Rochester Community and Technical College, followed by two seasons (2003-'04) at the University of Minnesota -- and end his soccer dreams because he knew a career in the NFL would offer more than one in MLS.

"To say I regretted it every day since would be a true statement, purely based on the fact that soccer's my first and only love in the sport," Lloyd said. "That was one of my -- as bad as it sounds -- one of my harder decisions in life, was to make that decision. But I don't look back and I love doing what I do and I'm fortunate to do what I do."

Lloyd -- who turned 28 last week -- signed a two-year contract with the Vikings in March after the Carolina Panthers didn't make a qualifying offer to him as a restricted free agent.

Veteran place-kicker Ryan Longwell has admitted he was miffed by the move, which in essence would cut his duties in half if Lloyd makes the roster. But Lloyd said the two have bonded over their mutual love of golf.

Here's a little more from Lloyd's time with reporters during the Vikings' organized team activity practices:

On whether he thought the Vikings would be interested: "Out of all teams in the NFL, this is one of the last, because obviously with Ryan being here, and they're pretty stable with the kicking situation. So, I never even thought about being back in Minnesota other than seeing friends."

On whether he was surprised Carolina didn't make an offer: "Yes and no, but that's part of the business. I wasn't really worried about it and concerned about it. Those are the things that you can't control. So, there was no point in me sitting on my coach at home and really worrying about it. (The Panthers) had spoken to me and said potentially they might do something, but they were waiting. So, I kind of knew where I was at with them, and then the Vikings and the Giants came in, and it was a no-brainer for me after coming up here as well, meeting the coaching staff and everybody else."

On whether kicking indoors at the Metrodome was attractive: "Absolutely. Whenever you can take any of the elements out of it for kicking, it makes life a lot easier. With the Metrodome, I've kicked there for 2½ years or whatever it was. Any dome in general is just nice to kick at. You kind of walk in there knowing that you don't have to even think about anything else, other than just putting the ball where you're supposed to put it. That's a nice thing."

On whether he's happy just handling kickoffs: "I'm here as a kickoff guy and I know that. I'm quite happy to be that guy. I don't know, after my two-year contract, what the plans are. But my only focus right now is to do the kickoffs and help the special teams out. I'm going to be learning off Ryan, which is a nice thing. I've been lucky enough to learn from John Kasay and Matt Stover, too. So, whenever you're put in front of guys with a lot of experience like that, it can only help me."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
In this story: Rhys Lloyd, Ryan Longwell
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