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Football: Sharpley will focus on football

Ken Fowler | Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Evan Sharpley agreed to give up one passion for another – for the next month, at least.

Thanks to an agreement between Notre Dame football head coach Charlie Weis and baseball head coach Paul Mainieri, the Irish backup quarterback and first baseman will stop playing baseball until spring football practices conclude, the freshman said after Notre Dame’s fourth workout of the spring Monday.

“There’s so much pressure put on the quarterback just to perform at a high level,” Sharpley said. “To add another sport on that – and the academics – is a high task.”

After “shadowing” starter Brady Quinn for most of last season in practices, Sharpley said this is his time to make a statement in the competition with sophomore quarterback David Wolke for the second-string position.

“Right now, it’s my opportunity,” Sharpley said. “I think it is a crossroad, as I make or break what I’m going to be.”

He said he wants to make the most of spring practices before highly touted incoming freshmen quarterbacks Zach Frazer and Demetrius Jones arrive at Notre Dame this fall.

Before committing to football full-time for the spring, Sharpley played in five games – with one start – for the baseball team, going 1-for-8 with four strikeouts, a walk and one RBI.

“I had first been recruited to play baseball here,” Sharpley said. “It really helped attract me to Notre Dame [to be able to play both].”

Weis said Sharpley’s limited role in baseball contributed to the decision to have him concentrate solely on football during spring practice.

“If [two-sport athletes] are a major factor for the other team and are handling what they do academically, then they can play [the other sport],” Weis said at Notre Dame’s spring media day March 21. “If Sharpley were going to start at first base hitting 25 home runs, I think he might be over there with the baseball team. But he’s not.”

Notre Dame’s other current baseball-football athlete, rising senior receiver Jeff Samardzija, will stick with baseball while attending six of Notre Dame’s 15 spring practices, Weis said.

As a starting pitcher for Mainieri’s squad, Samardzija went 8-1 in 2005 with a 3.89 ERA. This season, Samardzija is 2-1 in five appearances with a 3.72 ERA. Samardzija then set school records with 15 touchdown catches and 1,249 receiving yards last season for Weis.

“Jeff’s already established himself on the football field as well as the baseball field, so that’s why he gets all the time on the baseball field right now,” Sharpley said. “I haven’t established myself at either spot, but I’m here to play football right now.”

Sharpley said leaving the baseball team just a dozen games into his first season was difficult.

“I definitely would like to play [baseball],” Sharpley said. “It was fun to get to go on a couple of the trips with the team. I’m still going to be around those guys and support them at some of the games, especially the home ones.”

Sharpley said once spring football ends he will rejoin the baseball team full-time.