Skip to content

Samarzija’s football toughness showing on baseball diamond

May 12, 2013, 8:07 PM EDT

Samardzija

For Notre Dame football fans, there will always be a bit of a “what if” with Jeff Samardzija. The former All-American wide receiver, who exploded onto the scene when Charlie Weis arrived in South Bend, scored a ridiculous 27 touchdown passes in his final two years in South Bend, exactly 27 more than he did in his first two seasons.

Samardzija’s final two seasons were filled with highlight reel catches, an explosive player who was faster than you thought, a dangerous combination for a pure athlete that could catch anything thrown his way. Samardzija also played with an edge, as confident of a player as we’ve seen put on the blue and gold in recent memory.

Of course, Samardzija wasn’t just impressive on the football field. He dazzled scouts on the baseball diamond as well, where he’s size and athleticism coupled with a mid-to-high 90s fastball. Even though he was clearly a work in progress, Samardzija was good enough for the Chicago Cubs to take a flier on him, with then Cubs general manager Jim Hendry getting Samardzija to walk away from football for a five-year, ten million dollar contract, an obscene amount of money for a fifth round draft pick.

Slowly but surely, the Cubs faith in Samardzija has paid off. After starting his career in the bullpen, Samardzija has transitioned to the starting rotation, and even though he’s only won a single start in his first eight outings, he’s got the makings of one of the elite starting pitchers in the National League.

And just as impressive, he’s still showing the toughness that made him beloved on the football field on the pitching mound. ESPN’s Jim Caple chronicled Samardzija’s most impressive outing, where he battled through a bloodied index finger to gut out a much-needed victory.

Which is why a mere bloody finger didn’t stop Jeff Samardzija two weeks ago. He’s a baseball player, yes — a pitcher for the Cubs. But he’s also a former wide receiver at Notre Dame. Facing the Reds in Cincinnati, the 28-year-old Cubs starter fielded a comebacker off the tip of his right index finger, which ripped a cut under the fingernail. He had to wipe the blood off on his uniform so frequently the rest of the game that he went through two pairs of pants and two shirts.

“It wouldn’t close up because it was under the nail,” Samardzija says. “They couldn’t suture it. They couldn’t close it. All we could do is mask the bleeding. It probably stopped later that night or the next day. It was pretty nasty. … Yeah, it hurt like a bitch.”

But what the heck. Samardzija is an ex-football player. He not only kept pitching, he also pitched well — six innings, one run and eight strikeouts against one of baseball’s best teams. And remember, this was a key finger on his pitching hand, one that came in contact with the ball on every single painful pitch. Let’s see Aaron Rodgers throw 100 tight spirals with that condition.

“After the inning was over, he was running back into the dugout,” Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio says. “They’re doing everything they can to stop the bleeding. Powder. Pickle juice. Trying to dry it up with super glue. Every trick you could possibly do to stop the bleeding. And he just kept pitching.”

Bosio called it one of the most impressive performances he’s seen as a coach or a player. “That’s his heart, that’s his soul, that’s his fire. That’s Jeff Samardzija.”

Watching Samardzija come into his own on the pitching mound shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. With raw stuff as good as his, it’s only a matter of time before his talents emerge. And as a six-foot-five, 225-pound athlete will a head covered with long, overgrown hair, the personality that was often on display on Satudays now provides another piece of hope for the lovable Chicago Cubs.

Latest Posts
  1. Notre Dame releases camp schedule

    Jul 30, 2014, 6:38 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly, Everett Golson AP

    Notre Dame’s training camp schedule is set. With practice kicking off at Culver Military Academy next Monday, the timeline for Notre Dame’s preseason is set.

  2. Irish A-to-Z: Sam Mustipher

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Sam Mustipher

    In incoming freshman Sam Mustipher, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand found himself another interior offensive lineman who looks the part of a future starter. Irish A-to-Z looks closer at the Maryland native.

  3. Irish A-to-Z: Nyles Morgan

    Jul 29, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Nyles MorganAAA AP

    Say this for Nyles Morgan: He’s not one to shy away from expectations. When the freshman linebacker takes the field when training camp opens next week at Culver Military Academy, he’ll be wearing No. 5, last seen on Notre Dame’s most decorated defender ever. Irish A-to-Z continues with one of the Irish’s most prized recruits from the 2014 cycle.

  4. Irish A-to-Z: Kendall Moore

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:19 PM EDT

    Notre Dame v Stanford Notre Dame v Stanford

    One of four fifth-year players on the Irish roster, Kendall Moore has been a part of the Notre Dame football program for a long time. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at a veteran linebacker who is likely relegated to special teams in 2014.

  5. Report: Hernia surgery to keep Heuerman out for start of camp

    Jul 28, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Heuerman

    Notre Dame’s inexperienced tight end depth chart has taken a hit. A report by Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune revealed that sophomore tight end Mike Heuerman is working his way back from hernia surgery and won’t be ready for the start of fall camp.

  6. Irish A-to-Z: John Montelus

    Jul 28, 2014, 4:28 PM EDT

    Twitter Twitter

    If Brian Kelly’s first order of business recruiting offensive linemen was to get bigger, longer and more athletic prospects, he took an old school approach when he signed sophomore John Montelus. Irish A-to-Z continues with the Irish’s physical guard no longer wearing a redshirt.

  7. Irish A-to-Z: Pete Mokwuah

    Jul 27, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT

    Photo property of Rich Clark Photo property of Rich Clark

    It didn’t take long for Brian VanGorder to put his stamp on the Notre Dame defense. And before he coached a single game or practice for Brian Kelly, VanGorder went out and identified freshman defensive tackle Pete Mokwuah. Irish A-to-Z continues as we profile the Staten Island native.

  8. Irish A-to-Z: Colin McGovern

    Jul 26, 2014, 11:17 AM EDT

    Twitter Twitter

    Notre Dame will continue to recruit Chicago for top football talent. And in sophomore Colin McGovern, the Irish landed one of the area’s top offensive linemen. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at one of the bigger surprises on the Irish roster.

  9. Weekend Notes: Camp at Culver, Freshman numbers and the Chuck Martin circuit

    Jul 25, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT

    Matt Cashore - USA Today Sports Matt Cashore - USA Today Sports

    We are running out of days without football to talk about. Preseason camp is right around the corner. For student-athletes, they get one last chance to spend time with family and friends before returning to campus and kicking off camp.

  10. Irish A-to-Z: Mike McGlinchey

    Jul 24, 2014, 5:42 PM EDT

    Twitter Twitter

    Notre Dame broke the mold when they signed offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey. With a body better suited for Mike Brey’s hardwood, the Philadelphia native looked like a developmental project when he pledged his commitment to Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at Notre Dame’s starting right tackle.

  11. Mahone sentenced to 10 days in jail

    Jul 24, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT

    mahone (1)

    Wide receiver Will Mahone, whose future at Notre Dame is still uncertain, was sentenced to 10 days in Mahoning County jail on Wednesday stemming from an arrest in June. Mahone has been indefinitely suspended from the football team by Brian Kelly and is not enrolled at the university.

  12. Irish A-to-Z: Cam McDaniel

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT

    BYU v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Against just about all odds, senior Cam McDaniel led the Irish in rushing in 2013. Our latest installment in the Irish A-to-Z looks at the veteran running back, who now battles sophomores Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston for carries.

  13. FieldTurf installation nearly complete

    Jul 23, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Stadium Surface

    In case you haven’t been following along on social media, the installation of Notre Dame’s new synthetic surface is nearly complete. With the team from FieldTurf working this week to lay down the playing field, the Irish will have a playable field to practice on when camp begins on August 4

  14. Irish A-to-Z: Jacob Matuska

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:17 PM EDT

    Jacob Matuska

    A recruiting cycle before Notre Dame went hunting late for big bodies to play along the defensive line, they signed a player who might be able to fit that mold in 2014. Fresh off a redshirt, Jacob Matuska has the chance to add some much needed size and strength to Brian VanGorder’s defensive line.

  15. Irish A-to-Z: Greer Martini

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Greer Martini

    The founding member of the 2014 recruiting class, linebacker Greer Martini enters a football program that looks decidedly different than the one he committed to back in July of 2012. Irish A-to-Z continues as we look at the freshman inside linebacker.

  16. Irish A-to-Z: Nick Martin

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:22 PM EDT

    USC v Notre Dame Getty Images

    No, he’s not his brother. But center Nick Martin should solidify his standing as one of the top centers in the country in 2014. After an injury ended his debut season in the starting lineup early, Martin returns healthy after knee surgery, giving Notre Dame a key anchor in the middle of Harry Hiestand’s offensive line.

  17. Irish A-to-Z: Tyler Luatua

    Jul 21, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Rivals.com Rivals.com

    After losing Troy Niklas and Alex Welch from the depth chart, Notre Dame needed to restock a position that’s been very kind to the Irish over the past few years. Irish A-to-Z continues with freshman tight end Tyler Luatua.

  18. Irish A-to-Z: Cole Luke

    Jul 20, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT

    Keenan Reynolds, Justin Utopo, Cole Luke Keenan Reynolds, Justin Utopo, Cole Luke

    A year after contributing as a freshman, Cole Luke’s assignment will be a bit more ambitious in 2014. One of three cornerbacks who is expected to play major minutes, Irish A-to-Z continues with the sophomore cover man.

  19. Irish A-to-Z: Christian Lombard

    Jul 19, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT

    Christian Lombard

    One of four graduate students on the Irish roster, Christian Lombard feels like he’s been a part of the Notre Dame football program for a long time. As one of Charlie Weis’ earliest commitments in the 2010 class, Lombard has seen coaching changes, position switches and injury challenges in his five years in South Bend.

  20. Irish A-to-Z: Ben Koyack

    Jul 19, 2014, 3:24 PM EDT

    New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers v Notre Dame Getty Images

    After two underwhelming seasons in South Bend, Ben Koyack finally emerged as a legitimate threat late last season. And with Troy Niklas’ unexpected departure to the NFL, Koyack has a chance to be the next in a line of impressive tight ends playing on Sundays. The Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at Notre Dame’s starting tight end.