Saturday, January 20, 2007

Cubs Coup | by Pat

As we wondered how Jeff Samardzija's desire to keep playing baseball would affect his NFL draft status (heck, just a couple weeks ago, Shark himself was still on the fence), the debate was rendered moot yesterday when he officially gave up playing football.

"Obviously, my decision means I have played my last football game. That does not mean I have lost my passion for the game. I will always love football. My four years at Notre Dame - playing for the Fighting Irish - were amazing. I could not have asked for more from my teammates, our fans, and our coaches. I appreciate fully that another amazing experience awaited me in the NFL. But, as much as it seemed like a real possibility last summer, I have concluded that playing two sports professionally is impossible.

"I understand that some people may be skeptical of my intentions. I cannot lie: leaving football will not be easy. But playing baseball is my first love. It is what I want to do for a living.

You can watch the press conference here.

Making the decision easier was the 5-year, $10 million contract he signed with the Cubs that includes a $2.5 million signing bonus, a no-trade clause, and an option to extend the deal to a 7-year, $16.5 million contract. Samardzija was projected as a late first round, early second round NFL draft pick, but concerns about his desire to keep playing baseball might have moved him lower. Now officially a one-sport player, Samardzija probably made the right choice as football careers are notoriously short while a decent pitcher can last in the majors for much longer. (Then again, he is a young pitcher with the Cubs. Watch that pitch count, Jeff.)

Samardzija was also in the news a few days ago when he was named a Consensus All-American and in the process became the 17th two-time Consensus All-American in ND football history. But then the NCAA stepped in and admitted that they made a mistake adding up five different ballots and, in fact, Jeff was not a Consensus All-American. The five All-American ballots that make up the Consensus tag include the American Football Coaches Association, the Assosciated Press, the Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News and the Walter Camp Foundation. Samardzija was named 1st Team AA by the FWAA, but 2nd team by the rest. Once the NCAA added in The Sporting News ballot they forgot the first time, Samardzija lost the Consensus tag and will have to settle being only a two-time regular All-American.