April 1, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Following an off-day on Wednesday, the Notre Dame football team got back on the gridiron Thursday afternoon with a two-hour indoor practice session at the Loftus Sports Center. Although the calendar might have read April 1 (April Fools’ Day), the Irish were not in a joking mood on Thursday, moving crisply from drill to drill and focusing intently on returning to the form that earned them a berth in the 2003 Toyota Gator Bowl.
“Our young men are continuing to put forth great effort towards becoming better in all aspects of the game,” Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham said.
“Since we are only allowed 15 practices in the spring, we must make each session count and I believe our players have taken that to heart. We have seen some good things on the practice field so far and we expect that will continue in the coming days and weeks.”
One player that caught the eye of those in attendance was wide receiver Jeff Samardzija. However, it wasn’t so much the play of the Valparaiso, Ind., native that drew attention, but simply the fact that he was at practice to begin with. Samardzija currently is moonlighting as a relief pitcher on the Notre Dame baseball team, and Paul Mainieri’s crew was in the midst of warm-ups for a 5 p.m. ET game with Hillsdale College at nearby Eck Stadium while Samardzija was catching passes on the football field.
Two-sport athletes are nothing new to the Irish football program. Former Notre Dame athletics director Edward “Moose” Krause was a tackle on the gridiron and also earned three monograms in basketball during the 1931-32, 1932-33 and 1933-34 seasons. Meanwhile, 1978 consensus All-America linebacker Bob Golic picked up two monograms as a heavyweight wrestler for the Irish in ’78 and ’79. Perhaps most notably, All-America flanker Raghib “Rocket” Ismail also garnered All-America honors on the track, finishing second in the 55-meter dash at the 1991 NCAA Indoor Championships.
Samardzija has been extremely impressive on the baseball diamond so far this season, posting a team-low 0.60 ERA in 15.0 innings of work, while allowing opponents to hit a paltry .083 for the year. He is one of a handful of current Irish football players who are pulling double-duty this season. Tight end John Carlson joined the Notre Dame men’s basketball team at midseason and appeared in three games for the Irish, scoring two points and grabbing a rebound. At the same time, running back Ryan Grant and cornerback Dwight Ellick both signed on with the Notre Dame track squad, with Ellick placing third in the 200 meters and seventh in the 60 meters at the BIG EAST Conference Indoor Championships back in February. Ellick has earned all-BIG EAST honors on the track three times in his career, twice turning the trick in the 200-meter dash (2002, 2004).
“Competition is always a healthy thing and we encourage our young men to stay competitive all year long,” Willingham said.
“If they choose to play another sport during their time at Notre Dame, whether that be baseball, basketball, track or any other sport, we are behind them all the way.”
For the record, Samardzija completed the entire football practice on Thursday before heading over to Eck Stadium for the final innings of Notre Dame’s 10-2 win over Hillsdale College. Samardzija and his Irish football teammates will be back at practice Friday afternoon before suiting up in full pads for the first time on Saturday.
— ND —