Jeff Samardzija rose to stardom under the tutelage of former Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Charlie Weis during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. During that span, the wide receiver amassed 155 receptions for 2266 yards and 28 touchdowns, and he became a Consensus All-American.
Samardzija did all this while playing baseball for the Irish, which was a promise made to him on the recruiting trail from Weis’s predecessor, Tyrone Willingham. That promise led Jeff to choose the Irish over schools lie the Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes - schools that weren’t so keen on the idea of Samardzija trying to play both sports in college.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it was this kept promise that had Samardzija honor Willingham at the fourth annual Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards at the Fairmont Hotel.
“He didn’t have to, but that shows the character of someone, when they do something that they don’t have to do. It was selflessness. To not limit a kid’s possibilities due to his personal needs and wants.”
It was Tyrone Willingham after all, that helped spark a run of great wide receivers at Notre Dame from Jeff Samardzija, to Golden Tate (who was promised by Weis that he could play baseball in South Bend and did so), and to Michael Floyd.
So there you have it. Tyrone Willingham, the kingmaker.