SAN FRANCISCO — Throughout the offseason, Jeff Samardzija visited Oracle Park three times a week for workouts and rehab, and twice a week he would go through that grueling work at a local rehab facility. In quiet moments, Samardzija occasionally followed along with a story that has dominated the conversation in two sports, and seemed very familiar.
More than a decade ago, Jeff Samardzija was in Kyler Murray's shoes. What would he tell the A’s first-round pick, who also may go in the first round of the NFL Draft after winning the Heisman Trophy?
“He should stick to his heart,” Samardzija said Friday. “Looking back on my situation, the whole reason I’m where I’m at now is because I picked the sport that I love, through and through, day in and day out. I was always happy to be going to baseball practice and a game, doubleheaders on travel teams and all that. There was never that ‘shrug the shoulders’ feeling that you had in football. That’s a big part of it.
“For me, I kind of figured that would carry me into a longer career than doing something as a job. If you love to do it, it’s a little easier to go in early and stay late than if you’re just trying to get through it. He needs to make sure he’s making decisions for the right reason and that’s what you love to do it.”
The general sense from recent reports seems to be that Murray is more in love with football, and on Thursday it was reported that he will attend the NFL Scouting Combine. Samardzija never did, despite the fact that he was much more successful at Notre Dame on the gridiron. He had more than 1,000 receiving yards in each of his final two seasons at Notre Dame, totaling 27 touchdowns and twice becoming a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation’s top receiver.
Samardzija was projected in the first round of the 2007 draft, but in January of that year, he signed a five-year big league deal with the Cubs for a signing bonus of $10.5 million. That’s the type of deal that’s no longer available to top draft picks. Murray got $5 million from the A’s but would exceed that as a first-rounder in the NFL.
“He doesn’t necessarily need to choose money right now, but again, with the way our (baseball) draft is now, it’s hard to turn down (more money) from football,” Samardzija said. “It was flip-flopped when I was drafted. I was turning down money (if I went) to play football.”
Samardzija has been open over the years about the fact he feels he absolutely made the right decision.
He has his health, and he’s still playing at a time when the vast majority of his football class — guys like Jamarcus Russell, Calvin Johnson, and Patrick Willis — has long since retired. But he doesn’t think Murray should worry about longevity as he chooses between baseball and football.
“If you’re as good as they say you are, you’re going to have a long career either way,” he said.