- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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PITTSBURGH -- Count Chicago Cubs pitcher -- and former football player Jeff Samardzija -- as another person who will miss Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Urlacher announced his retirement on Wednesday, after 13 years in the NFL, the same day Samardzija threw seven innings of one-run ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates. But the news of Urlacher's retirement didn't escape Samardzija.
"What a perfect guy to have in that spot on that team," Samardzija said. "I was always a fan of his, it's a sad day."
Samardzija grew up in northern Indiana and was an All-American receiver at Notre Dame, so he followed the Bears and Urlacher from the beginning of his career to the end.
"Me and Tom Zbikowski roomed together and we were both Bears fans, growing up watching him make plays," Samardzija said. "For him to have the career that he had is outstanding. I think only like three or four guys have had 40 sacks and 20 picks, unfortunately things don't last forever."
Samardzija, a wide-receiver and pitcher in college, was especially impressed with Urlacher's athleticism, reminding him of himself.
"I loved the pick because he was a safety guy who returned punts and kicks in college," Samardzija stated. "He was a great athlete which a lot of people I think kind of forgotten about the last few years."
Samardzija is hopeful he can stay with the Cubs for as long as Urlacher did with the Bears.
"Unfortunately the front office pushed him out and didn't think there was a spot for him, that's hard to believe," Samardzija said. "But what a great dude. Fun to watch. Glad he retired a Bear though."
Samardzija has never met Urlacher despite both being at the highest levels of football at the same time. But one was a professional and the other in college.
"I flew on a plane with him once but didn't say anything to him," Samardzija recalled. "Didn't want to (bother him) on a private flight like that. But what a cool dude."