Before we get to Jeff Samardzija, let's talk about Antwaan Randle El.
As part of a feature on Steelers' Super Bowl legends at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reporter J. Bradley McCullough talked to former receiver Antwaan Randle El about his life after football. As it turns out, Randle El isn't doing so well, especially by the standards of 36-year-olds. Our associates over at Eye On Football have the football angle on things covered.
Anyhow, Randle El attributes his premature physical (and mental) decline to all those years playing football, which gives rise to this admission:
Randle El didn’t hesitate when asked if he regrets playing football.
“If I could go back, I wouldn’t,” he said. “I would play baseball. I got drafted by the Cubs in the 14th round, but I didn’t play baseball because of my parents. They made me go to school. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of football. But, right now, I could still be playing baseball.”
The Cubs did indeed make the Thornton HS (Harvey, Ill.) outfielder the 424th overall pick of the 1997 draft. Randle El, however, accepted a scholarship to play football at Indiana University and went on to spend nine seasons in the NFL.
None of this is to say that Randle El would've gone on to have a baseball career of any note, but had he signed out of high school and devoted himself to the sport or played in college then that indeed might have happened.
The model, at least in recent times, for wide receiver-to-MLBer is of course Samardzija, the pitcher and former Notre Dame wideout who recently signed a high-dollar contract with the (baseball) Giants. As Cork Gaines of Business Insider points out, Samardzija, who was drafted by the Cubs in the fifth round in 2006, has far out-earned the three wide receivers who were drafted in in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft. Samardzija, in fact, will almost certainly wind up making significantly more than Dwayne Bowe, Ted Ginn, and Robert Meachem combined once his Giants contract plays out. Obviously, Samardzija is an outlier in that a lot of baseball players never make the majors and never achieve that life-changing payday, but the general point stands.
Still, in MLB, the contracts are guaranteed, which isn't the case in the NFL, and, generally speaking, it's orders of magnitude less debilitating. The players also, again, generally speaking, make more money. It's not hard to understand why Mr. Randle El wishes he'd made different choices all those years ago.