Olindo Mare: Mare can't kick his love for soccer

Everybody has dreams, and some day Dolphins kicker Olindo Mare might get a chance to live his dream.

Mare, the man many call the best kicker in the NFL, sometimes dreams about being a professional soccer player.

"I definitely would have loved to give it a shot," Mare said.

Mare, who lettered in football and soccer at Cooper City High, made an NFL-record 39 field goals a year ago. His .848 accuracy percentage was a Dolphins season record. Those accomplishments earned him his first berth to the Pro Bowl.

His kicking shoe and the ball he used to break the former NFL mark of 37 are in the NFL Hall of Fame.

But he still loves soccer, a fondness that was instilled in him from birth from his father, Gino.

"I grew up with a ball at my feet," Mare said.

Mare is an avid soccer fan. He follows Major League Soccer and attends Fusion games when possible. He went to high school with Fusion midfielder Mark Chung, and Thomas Rongen, the D.C. United coach who is considered one of the best in the MLS, is one of Mare's former soccer coaches.

Mare even attended a World Cup match at Giants Stadium in 1994 with his father. Mare has a photo of himself and Fusion coach Ray Hudson that was taken when Mare was 8.

"My dad found it about a month ago and brought it out and said, `You've come a long way,''' Mare said.

In 1996, he spent the season on the New York Giants' practice squad. He was released and signed by the Dolphins in 1997. In his first game, against the Indianapolis Colts, he ended up punting because John Kidd, the Dolphins' punter, suffered a hamstring injury.

Mare made three field goals and had two punts downed inside the 20. He has been solid since.

During a recent interview, Dolphins defensive tackle Daryl Gardener walked by Mare and a reporter and offered an opinion: "He's going to the Pro Bowl again."

"It looks that way," the reporter said.

"There's no looking to it," Gardener said. "That's guaranteed. You can quote me on that."

Mare smiled.

Of course, there's a school of thought that says if Mare makes the Pro Bowl again, it means the Dolphins' offense has sputtered for a second consecutive year.

"A lot of the players were kidding that one of their offensive goals this year is to keep Olindo out of the Pro Bowl," Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said. "They say that in jest, and if we can score some touchdowns and don't have to kick as many field goals that would happen. But I don't know. We haven't started out that way, so that's a goal we have to work on."

During the preseason, it appeared Mare would continue his near-flawless performance from a year ago. He kicked five field goals in the Dolphins' 15-13 victory over Tampa Bay.

He came crashing back to reality in the next game against Green Bay when he went 1 for 5 on field-goal attempts. The four misses most likely are something Mare will remember forever.

"You don't remember any of the ones you make," Mare said, "but you definitely remember the ones you miss. I know every kick I've missed since I've been playing."

Fortunately for the Dolphins, Mare doesn't have to have a long memory when it comes to missed kicks. It's also fortunate for the Dolphins that Mare doesn't have to choose between soccer and football.

Asked which sport he would rather play professionally, Mare had to give it some thought.

"Same money?" he asked.

Same money.

Said Mare: "I'd have to talk to my agent."