When Worlds Collide

The NFL Seattle Seahawks' kicker, Olindo Mare, was once a two-sport star in both football and soccer.

Life was different for Olindo Mare at 18 years old.

As a freshman at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill., Mare would finish his class schedule, then run to football practice from 3-5, followed by soccer practice from 5-7. As an NCAA Division III school, MacMurray was the only school that afforded him the opportunity to play both of his loves, football and soccer.

A midfielder and striker for the Highlanders, Mare had a nose for the net and his efforts in the two sports got him inducted into the MacMurray Hall of Fame in 2005. He helped the Highlanders reach the final eight in his one season under head coach Bill Killen.

“For obvious reasons, I can shoot,” Mare said. “If you can shoot, you can score and if you can score, you can play.”

In one memorable week, he scored the winning goal for the soccer team and the winning extra point in the football team’s homecoming game.

“You can do that at 18 or 19. Now I can’t even go home and watch three kids,” said the 36-year-old Mare, who enjoys both sports now as kicker for the NFL Seattle Seahawks and a fan of the Sounders FC.

As much as he loved playing soccer and football, MacMurray didn’t offer athletic scholarships and the financial burden took its toll, sending Mare to his hometown of Hollywood, Florida, to continue playing football at the community college level. There he caught the eye of Syracuse University where he earned a scholarship to punt and eventually went on to kick 12 seasons in the NFL, highlighted by his All-Pro season in 1999 with the Miami Dolphins.

But his love for soccer has never escaped him.

The son of an Italian-born Juventus supporter, Mare will watch any soccer he can, whether it be Major League Soccer or English Premiership. Growing up in south Florida, he watched the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers and was coached by former MLS and current US U-20 coach Thomas Rongen. He even had several youth teammates that went on to play Major League Soccer, including former US National Team midfielder Mark Chung.

“Obviously I love the USA when the World Cup comes,” said Mare when asked about his favorite team. “But I love all soccer.”

While playing with the Dolphins, he frequently watched the now-defunct Miami Fusion. Now, he brings his three children to Sounders FC matches.

That continues a  family tradition, as Mare’s father, Gino, raised him on soccer, even traveling with him across the Atlantic Ocean to Manchester City to watch a match against Arsenal. The young Mare even got the chance to shoot against English National Team goalkeeper David James.

“They like it, but I’m not going to push them into anything,” Mare said of his sons, Hayden, 7, and Olindo Jr., 3, and five-year-old daughter Kayla. “If it’s golf, football, tennis or soccer, I can help them and teach them. Baseball, hockey and basketball – they’ll have to find someone else because I don’t know much.”

Mare is in his second season with the Seahawks. He has made 21-of-23 field goals this season with two games left on the schedule after making 24-of-27 last year. The Seahawks face the Green Bay Packers on the road this Sunday before returning home to Qwest Field for the season finale on Jan. 2.

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