Landri Visits Former Teammate

The college draft was still fresh on the mind of Jacksonville defensive tackle Derek Landri as he sat in the stands watching a Double-A baseball game between the hometown Jacksonville Suns and the visiting Tennessee Smokies. Landri was there to watch his former Notre Dame teammate, Jeff Samardzija

Derek Landri isn't a baseball fan, in fact it was his first game at the Baseball Grounds since the Jaguars drafted him the year before. He was however, most interested in watching the Smokies starting pitcher that day, right-hander Jeff Samardzija.

Landri and Samardzija had been football teammates for four years at Notre Dame, where Landri excelled on the defensive line and Samardzija was good enough as a wide receiver to be a two-time all-American. In his last two years with the Irish, Samardzija caught 155 passes for over 2,200 yards and 27 touchdowns.

But the 6-5, 220-pounder was also a standout in baseball, good enough to have the Chicago Cubs draft him in the fifth round of the 2006 draft and eventually sign him to a five-year, $10 million contract. Still, Landri envisioned what his former teammate would have been like had he chosen the sport that primarily plays on Sundays.

"He was a great football player for us at Notre Dame," Landri said. "He had unbelievable hands and just made plays, lots of plays. A lot of the credit for (quarterback) Brady (Quinn's) success goes to Jeff. He made some great catches and made Brady look good. We're talking about one-handed catches and then big plays after the catch.

"He was just an awesome player. He would have gone to any team as their No. 1 or 2 receiver. I wish he would have played football (in the NFL), especially here in Jacksonville.

Samardzija is in his third season with the Cubs and while the progression toward the major leagues has been slow, he doesn't regret the choice he made to sign with Chicago that year, one that included the stipulation that he could return to Notre Dame for a senior season in football. He had another strong year, but upon completion of that season, turned his attention to baseball on a full-time basis.

He says he has no regrets or second thoughts about whether he picked the right sport.

"No, not really," Samardzija said. "If I did, I think I'd just go do it (play football). I'm still playing baseball and still loving it. I just want to get deeper into each game no matter what."


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