Carli Lloyd, the gilded soccer legend, can finish her brilliant athletic career however she wants. Try NFL place kicking? Sure. Go for it. She could make history. She could miss every attempt. Some meathead with a tough-guy agenda could flatten her one time. No matter how it ends, she’s still the great Carli Lloyd.

As the 37-year-old Lloyd considers the possibility of one new and final challenge in sports, the intrigue shouldn’t be limited to the gender experiment, to what a high-profile woman could do in a man’s game. That’s the obvious hook, and if Lloyd were to thrive, it would be a landmark achievement for female athletic empowerment. But after winning two World Cups and two Olympic gold medals and being awarded two FIFA player of the year awards in her primary sport, her legitimacy as an athlete isn’t on the line.

Let’s not pretend otherwise. It’s quite easy and dangerous for male chauvinism to take over and cast Lloyd’s moonlighting as some grand opportunity to prove herself. That’s insulting. Lloyd doesn’t need the NFL to cement her legacy. She just wants a side challenge, and if she does follow through, I’m more interested in what we can learn about greatness when placed in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable environment.

It’s the same curiosity as when Michael Jordan retired and gave baseball a try. Even though he was ridiculed for going from the world’s greatest basketball player to a minor league outfielder with a .202 batting average, it was quite remarkable that he could change sports on a whim and actually have a few moments amid his failure. Then he returned to hoops and commenced being Michael Jordan, and when we discuss his legacy, baseball is merely a footnote. As time has passed, history tends to refer to that excursion more in the context of a mourning Jordan needing baseball to get past his father’s murder or as Jordan being so dominant in basketball that he needed a fresh challenge.

The list of successful multisport professionals is incredibly short. Even the people famous for pulling it off, such as Bo Jackson, usually couldn’t attach longevity to the feat. There’s an impossibility to it all, especially for Lloyd, who has no placekicking background. And for a legendary athlete, that’s probably the best part of the idea. That’s also why you should be careful to attach the wrong kind of significance to the pursuit.

When footage emerged of Lloyd playing around and splitting the uprights from 55 yards away last week at a Philadelphia Eagles practice, it created a buzz, and it was harmless and fun. Then Lloyd turned serious about giving kicking a try, perhaps next year, though the 2020 Olympics could complicate that timeline. And then came reports of a couple of NFL teams having some level of interest in trying her out. Now, Carli kickin’ is a thing.

It’s one of those what-if sports stories that we can’t resist debating. The dissenters are loud and obvious with their takes. What if she always needs a running start like on the 55-yarder and doesn’t have power or accuracy using the traditional two-step approach? (Yeah, like she’s going to try out without knowing she can handle the footwork.) What if an NFL team just wants to use her for a preseason PR stunt? (For one, Lloyd is too proud and competitive to allow herself to be a sideshow. And uptight NFL teams are inclined to hate those kinds of distractions.)

What if Lloyd, listed at 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds, gets pummeled by some very big man on a kickoff or after a blocked kick? (A concern, sure, but it’s not like kickers must be as physical as linebackers. In 19 NFL seasons, 260-pound Sebastian Janikowski was credited with 19 tackles.)

Lloyd wouldn’t put herself through the scrutiny without careful consideration of all that could go wrong. But as a competitor, she would focus mostly on what she thinks she can do.

“You need to have thick skin — mentally tough, mentally strong,” Lloyd said. “I invite pressure. I love pressure. I’ve got all of that ticked off. Now it’s just a matter of knowing I can do it and go from there.”

There’s no real downside. The backlash over the mere possibility of this happening should serve as motivation for Lloyd to give football a try. She’s a longtime member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, perhaps the most formidable cage-rattling team for change in sports. It’s only natural that Lloyd would attempt the impossible.

You can look at her merely as a woman trying to break though in football. But Lloyd is so much more than that. She’s an iconic soccer player curious about her athletic limits. Only the great ones have such audacity.

If success requires Lloyd to make an NFL roster — in a sport she’s taking up in her late 30s — she probably can’t win. Steph Curry, a scratch golfer, couldn’t quit the NBA next year and make the PGA Tour. But if he tried and failed, he’d still be Steph Curry, just as she’ll still be Carli Lloyd. So there’s no losing, either.

For Lloyd, the experiment would be one of greatness, not gender, not even sanity. It would be her opportunity, in a new and uneasy environment, to utilize the traits that have made her elite in soccer and see how they translate to something that won’t feel as natural.

There’s great value, meaning and depth in such a pursuit. Lloyd should follow her instincts and invite the pressure one more time.

For more by Jerry Brewer, visit washingtonpost.com/brewer.

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