September marks the time of year when football and baseball intersect. Its only natural that many players played both; the two-sport star existed before Bo Jackson, and to this day there are plenty who have laced it up on both fields. Many of the boys of summer you are watching now easily could have been footballers. Here’s a list of 10 such active baseball players who had significant football careers.
10) Clayton Richard, San Diego Padres
On the Gridiron: The pride of Lafayette, Indiana, Richard was the first high school athlete to be named Indiana’s Mr. Football and Mr. Baseball in the same year. As a high school quarterback, Richard threw for 10,777 yards and 92 touchdowns. He then redshirted his freshman year in at Michigan in 2003, but lost the starting quarterback job to freshman Chad Henne in 2004. His football days were over when the Chicago White Sox selected him in the 8th round of the 2005 draft.
Had He Chosen Football? It what will prove a theme, Richard’s fate seemed a bit predestined. He was never going to rise past #2 on the Michigan depth chart, and when the Sox came calling, that was all for his football days.
9) Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
On the Gridiron: Here’s another tale of a kid who tore it up as a high school quarterback, got an offer from a big-time football program (Oklahoma State), then along came professional baseball; in this case the Colorado Rockies selected him in the 7th round of the 1998 draft.
Had He Chosen Football? He likely would have twirled into oblivion; Oklahoma State was the backwater of college football when Holliday would have been there.
8 ) Carl Crawford (Tampa Bay Rays)
On the Gridiron: See #9 and make the following changes:
- Replace the words “Oklahoma State” with “Nebraska.”
- Crawford was drafted in the second round of the 1999 draft.
Had He Chosen Football? Another guy who may have passed his way into loading trucks at UPS. Not only do Nebraska quarterbacks not go to the NFL, the Huskers already had a Heisman trophy winner in the paddock: Eric Crouch.
7) Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians
On the Gridiron: Sizemore played running back and cornerback in high school, setting school records for career rushing yards and interceptions. Sizemore committed to the University of Washington as a quarterback. However, after being drafted Montreal Expos, a $2 million signing bonus ended his days a Husky.
Had He Chosen Football? This is another “guess” job since Sizemore never played quarterback before. But, it is more likely he would have lost the job to Cody Pickett, who still holds Washington’s records for career passing yards and touchdowns
6) Seth Smith, Colorado Rockies
On the Gridiron: In high-school, Smith collected letters for sports like the rest of us collected baseball cards. But once he hit the University of Mississippi, he never saw a single snap as a quarterback. Why? Because Smith isn’t the only guy on this list to lose his football career to a guy named Manning. Once Eli became the starter, Smith was back to baseball.
Had He Chosen Football? This is the classic “Who knows?” We never even got a glimpse of what might have been. However, the fact that he hit .400 as a freshman at Ole Miss suggested that his future was not on the gridiron.
5) Mark DeRosa, San Francisco Giants
On the Gridiron: As a quarterback at the University of Pennsylvania, in two seasons DeRosa notched a 16-3 record as a starter, along with 3,885 passing yards. He played a role in leading the Quakers setting a Division I-AA record for consecutive wins (24), which included an undefeated 1994 Ivy League championship season.
Had He Chosen Football? Let’s do the math here…Know how many Ivy League quarterback have been drafted into the NFL in the last 40 years? Exactly 9.
- Brown: Bob Bateman, Cincinnati Bengals (1976)
- Columbia: John Witkowski, Detroit Lions (1984), Marty Domres, San Diego Chargers (1969)
- Harvard: Ryan Fitzpatrick, St. Louis Rams (2005), Brian Buckley, New England Patriots (1981), Eric Crone, St. Louis Cardinals (1973)
- Princeton: Bob Holly, Washington Redskins (1982)
- Yale: Tom Doyle, Oakland Raiders (1969), Brian Dowling, Minnesota vikings (1969)
Out of that 9, only Marty Domres was drafted higher than the 6th round, and only Domres and Ryan Fitzpatrick had any career worthy of even the slightest note. Not to mention at the time DeRosa would have been in the draft, an Ivy League quarterback hadn’t been drafted in over a decade.
4) Adam Dunn, Washington Nationals
On the Gridiron: At one time, Dunn was the #3 ranked high school quarterback in the state of Texas; his Friday night career consisted of 4,792 passing yards, 44 touchdowns, and a 24-9 record. Th4e trouble was that upon his arrival at the University of Texas, he was still the #3 quarterback, behind local hero Major Applewhite and NFL-offspring Chris Simms.
Had He Chosen Football? Dunn’s 6’6,” 290-pound frame is more suggestive of a lineman then a quarterback. While he wasn’t quite as Brobdignagian at the time, the Longhorns were already in the process of converting him to tight end, and given Dunn’s notoriously bad hands, this was process that likely would have ended with Dunn on the offensive line. IHOP wishes it could make pancakes like the one Dunn laid on Carlos Santana. It all became moot when the when the Cincinnati Reds called him to the bigs in 2001.
3) Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs
On the Gridiron: Even though he is the only guy on this list who wasn’t a quarterback, Samardzija was still a lethal weapon for Notre Dame in 2005. He had 77 catches, 1,215 yards and 15 touchdowns. He Irish single-season school records in receiving yardage, touchdown receptions and consecutive games with a touchdown reception. 2006 was a sequel; 78 receptions, 1,017 yards and a dozen scores, which was enough to make him a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.
Had He Chosen Football? Mel Kiper was convinced Samardzija was a first-round pick, and we all know Kiper is never wrong. But going with the Cubs was the smart financial move; Samardzija’s five-year, $10 million contract and $2.5 million signing bonus was all guaranteed. While the NFL doesn’t offer that sort of monetary security, there’s also no guarantee that Samardzija isn’t headed for the Iowa Cubs Hall of Fame.
2) Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies
On The Gridiron: Helton was a scholarship quarterback for Tennessee who was slated to play back-up to Heath Shuler and later Jerry Colquitt. However, when Colquitt was injured in the season opener in 1994, Helton became the starter. He led Tennessee to 23 fourth-quarter points to nearly defeat UCLA. He started three games before getting injured himself, paving the way for a freshman named Peyton Something-or-other.
Had He Chosen Football? It was never likely he would have made that choice. Even if Helton remained the starter at Tennessee, he wasn’t going to stay in front of Peyton Manning for long. Even without Manning, Helton may have been an NFL 2nd-or-third stringer or maybe been an Arena league guy, meanwhile on the diamond he set 19 school records, was named the 1995 SEC Player of the Year and was a three-time SEC Tournament MVP. But you still wonder if he gets together with Seth Smith for a “Screw the Mannings” bitch-session.
1) Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
On The Gridiron: Hark back to the days before Mauer was the reigning AL Most Valuable Player. Rather, set the Wayback Machine for 2000 and look at the anticipation Florida State fans have as they have Mauer signed as a the successor to Heisman Trophy winner (and fellow Cretin-Derham High School product) Chris Weinke. After all, Mauer was only the 2000 High School Player of the Year, being named so for torching the high school fields of Minnesota for 41 touchdowns during his senior year; including seven in a single playoff game. Mauer was the top-ranked recruit in the country, ahead of current NFL quarterbacks Derek Anderson, Kyle Orton, Kellen Clemens, Brodie Croyle, and Heisman trophy winner Matt Leinart.
Had He Chosen Football? We quite possibly could have had an NFL draft in 2004 where 3 of the top 5 picks could have been Heisman Trophy winner Mauer with two other “franchise” quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers.