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NBC Sports - Before we kick off an actual game week, our friends at Comcast Sportsnet in Chicago had a good update on former Irish wide receiver Jeff Samardzija, looking for a fresh start with the Cubs after general manager Jim Hendry was relieved of his duties after nine years at the helm of a team looking for its first World Series in 103 years.
If Samardzija's track record of performances after major firings is any indicator, the Cubs might be ready for a breakout season from a pitcher that walked away from a football career when the Cubs offered him a guaranteed five-year, ten million dollar contract.
More from Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com:
Jeff Samardzija thought back to the fallout at Notre Dame after Charlie Weis replaced Tyrone Willingham. Now someone else will be deciding on those club options for 2012 and 2013, and judging whether he might be built for the rotation.
"We're all playing for a tryout right now," Samardzija said. "We don't know who the new GM is going to be. We don't know what's going to happen next year. But we're all playing for whoever the new guy's going to be.
"We want to play hard and we want to play every game like it's the most important game of the season from here on out. Because I'm sure whoever it is - whoever's getting close to be (the guy) - is watching right now and really keeping a close eye on this team."
After only two full seasons in the minors, Samardzija made his first appearance in the big leagues in 2008 as a 23-year old, and after spending time between the farm and the show the past few years, he's spent all of 2011 in the majors, putting together a good season out of the bullpen.
Still, Irish fans can't help but wonder what might have been if Samardzija chose football after an All-American career that saw the Shark score an incredible 27 touchdowns in his final two seasons after Charlie Weis took over for Tyrone Willingham.
Looking back at the 2006 draft class, Santonio Holmes was the first wide receiver taken, going 25th to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Interestingly enough, the next receiver taken was by Charlie Weis' old team, when the New England Patriots took Florida wide receiver Chad Jackson in the second round. (He's yet to score a professional touchdown.) Other first day picks (at least, back before they messed up the draft) were Sinorice Moss from Miami, Greg Jennings from Western Michigan, and Travis Wilson out of Oklahoma, Derek Hagan out of Arizona State, Brandon Williams from Wisconsin, Maurice Stovall out of Notre Dame and Willie Reid from Florida State.
It's tough to know when Samardzija would've gone without seeing what he'd have run in the forty, but looking at the production from this group, only Holmes and Jennings have truly distinguished themselves in the NFL, and you've got to think that Shark's hands and the way he could go up and get a ball would have him making a pretty good living on Sundays as well.
Former Irish pitcher Brian Dupra is familiar with having his number dialed in the Major League Baseball draft, but twice, he was not quite ready to take the leap into professional baseball.
In 2007, the Texas Rangers selected him in the 36th round out of Greece Athena High School (N.Y.). However, the 6-foot-3 righty was eager for the college experience and elected to attend Notre Dame.
Three years later, the Detroit Tigers selected Dupra in the 11th round. Again, Dupra declined the invitation, deciding that the college experience was his cup of tea. He wanted the degree to go with it.
This past May, he graduated from the College of Arts & Letters with degrees in both sociology and computer applications. A few weeks later, Dupra was selected for a third time, as the Washington Nationals snatched him with the 217th overall pick.
Dupra has been spending the summer pitching for the Auburn Doubledays, a team in the Short-Season Class A New York-Penn League, located less than 70 miles from his hometown of Rochester, N.Y. He is currently 3-3 with a 3.46 ERA and 31 strikeouts.
Ryan Miller of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle recently caught up with Dupra to speak with him about his early experiences in the minor leagues.
- Josh Flynt
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