April 1, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park on MLB Opening Day. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Former Notre Dame Football Star Shines On MLB Opening Day

Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija perhaps lessened the off-season sting Notre Dame Fighting Irish football fans were left following January’s BCS championship game.

The 2005 consensus All-American wide receiver spun an MLB Opening Day gem, striking out nine in a two-hit, eight-inning win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Samardzija was that rare athlete who, coming out of college, had the option to succeed professionally in two sports. He caught 27 touchdown passes in his final two seasons at Notre Dame, and broke the 1000-yard barrier for each of the Fighting Irish’s last two BCS bowl participants prior to 2012.

And after his domination of the Pirates on Monday, if you’re asking how his football performances were against the state of Pennsylvania: Samardzija caught nine passes and two of his career scores against Pitt (in 2005) and Penn State (2006).

Samardzija briefly toyed with the idea of playing in both MLB and the NFL, and was even ranked in the top five of NFL draft guru Mel Kiper’s Big Board. Samardzija opted for Major League Baseball after the Cubs organization offered him a five-year, $10 million contract. A rocky first few MLB seasons sparked speculation that Samardzija could return to football.

But if MLB Opening Day was any indication of his season to come, Cub fans should be thankful Samardzija stuck with throwing instead of catching.

Samardzija isn’t the only former gridiron star to follow today. Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Kirk Gibson leads the Arizona Diamondbacks against the St. Louis Cardinals in the latest start of MLB Opening Day 2013.

Gibson has been a College Football Hall of Fame nominee every year since 2007 for his 2347-yard, 24-touchdown career at MSU.

Tags: Baseball Chicago Cubs Football Michigan State Spartans MLB Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pittsburgh Pirates

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