Posted: Thursday July 20, 2006 4:45PM; Updated: Sunday July 23, 2006 12:48AM
A star on the gridiron, Jeff Samardzija has proven to be equally imposing on the mound.
Last week SI associate editor Richard Deitsch interviewed Jeff Samardzija for the magazine's Q&A. Notre Dame's preseason All-America receiver is pitching this summer for the Cubs' Class A teams in Boise and Peoria. Here are additional excerpts from their interview.
SI: You recently said that quarterback Brady Quinn's arm ranks third on the team behind yours and safety Tom Zbikowski's. Has Brady gotten wind of those comments?
Samardzija:I don't think so. Or maybe he has and he just won't say anything. Natural arm strength is different from throwing a football. If you put a football in my hands, it'll flop all over the field. But I can throw it real hard. And Zbikowski has a cannon. But Brady has a lot of good things going for him, too.
SI:So how's life in the minors?
Samardzija:I like it. A lot of times when people change locations they get caught up in that and forget about playing the game. My pitch count keeps going up and the command of my fastball is getting better. My off-speed stuff is working. I'm liking where it's going. I only have a short amount of time here, but I'm trying to make the most of my time.
SI:How many pitches do you throw?
Samardzija:I throw three pitches, but it's really four because my four-seam fastball is different than my two-seam fastball. So I throw a fastball, slider and changeup. My out pitch is any of them, but I have to get ahead in the count to have an out pitch (laughs). I'm throwing the ball who knows where half the time.
SI:When do you report back to Notre Dame?
Samardzija:I plan on returning around July 31 and practice starts Aug. 7 or so. I'll probably get with Brady beforehand and put some long days in running routes and conditioning. I've been running every day in Boise, football-style workouts, so I'll be right on schedule.
SI: More than anything else, what does Charlie Weis expects from his players?
Samardzija: Charlie Weis expects to get back what he's given you. He gives you a $160,000 scholarship to Notre Dame -- and he expects you to earn that scholarship, whether that's being on the scout team or special teams or making big plays on offense on Saturdays.
SI:Zbikowski is your roommate, and like you, he's a two-sport athlete. [He made his pro boxing debut last month.] Have the two of you ever sparred?
Samardzija: I've never gotten in the ring with him, but I don't need to. We have plenty of times where [we're playing around, and] the fun turns into a nice little brawl. Now that he has Angelo Dundee in his corner, he might have a mental advantage. But that's where my physical attributes come in (laughs).
SI:Do you and Zbikowski compete in any sports?
Samardzija: Everything. Anything we do will be competitive, whether it's buying things or playing video games. In fact, if you watch us play video games, it'll turn into a fight 100 percent of the time. Everything we do is competitive. But it's for all the right reasons. We're not trying to one-up each other. It's just how we are. And that's what makes us close. We can go from being competitive to laughing about how stupid something is. He's a great guy. I can't say enough good things about him.