Before becoming a big-league pitcher, Samardzija had a lot of success in college as a football player. He played the wide receiver position and put up impressive stats that allowed him to be named a two-time All-American.
Jeff Samardzija deciding to pursue a baseball career
Samardzija was a two-sport athlete at the University of Notre Dame. On the baseball field, he was one of the team’s top pitchers. He finished second in the Big East Conference in both earned run average and opponents’ batting average. As a freshman, he was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Magazine. The Chicago Cubs drafted him in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB draft.
Samardzija signed a five-year deal to play for the Cubs. He made his MLB debut in 2008‘. The right-handed pitcher finished the season with a 1-0 record and a 2.28 ERA. He appeared in 26 games coming out of the bullpen. Samardzija spent his first seven years with the Cubs, where he mainly came out of the bullpen. During his final years in Chicago, he became a starting pitcher. In 2014, his final season, Chicago, was named a National League All-Star but could not participate because he was traded to an American League team.
He was traded to the Oakland Athletics midway through the 2014 season. With the Athletics, he finished the season starting in 16 games and finishing with a 5-6 record with a 3.14 ERA. After finishing the 2014 season with the Athletics, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox and played with them for a season. After one season with the White Sox, where he finished with a career-high 11 wins, he signed with the San Francisco Giants. As a member of the Giants, Samardzija continues to remain in the starting rotation. He finished the 2019 season with an 11-12 record with a 3.52 ERA.
Jeff Samardzija had a great football season at Notre Dame
When Samardzija was in college, he did not immediately play as a member of the football team. He was a reserve for his first two seasons, and he got his first start at the end of his sophomore season playing in the 2004 Insight Bowl. During the 2005 season, he quickly emerged as a top player in college football.
At the end of his junior season, he finished with 77 catches for 1,215 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was named to numerous All-America Teams. Samardzija continued to dominate going into his senior season as he finished with 78 receptions for 1,017 yards with 12 touchdowns. He finished the 2006 season as Notre Dame’s all-time leader in reception yards with 2,593. In 2005 and 2006, he was selected as one of the three finalists for the Fred Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s top wide receiver. With those numbers that he put up, he could have decided to enter the NFL draft.
Deciding to choose baseball over football
When it came down to it, Samardzija decided to pursue a baseball career. He initially planned to play in the NFL and the MLB, but after he was selected in the MLB draft, he decided to take his name out of the NFL draft.
Samardzija would have heard his name called in the NFL draft. With him putting up big numbers at one of the top football programs, just shows how talented he was. We will never know if he would have starred in the NFL, but we know he was a great player in college.