Matt Szczur possesses the potential to be considered pro material in two sports, but he found these athletic gifts tended to have a downside.
Between the end of Villanova's 2008 football season and the start of Wildcats baseball in 2009, Szczur (pronounced SEE-zurr) was going through baseball workouts six days a week and lifting weights five days a week in preparation for spring football practice.
Exhausted by all the work, Szczur felt the only answer might have been to give up on baseball, and he met with football coach Andy Talley and baseball coach Joe Godri to discuss his predicament.
"When he told me he might have to give up baseball, we had a long talk," Talley said. "I told him, 'You have unbelievable baseball talent, and it would be a tragedy for you to stop playing. So we backed off on the demands of spring. He's such a fine football player. I thought he should do both."
So the versatile Szczur, a wide receiver, return man, and Wildcat-formation quarterback who made second-team all-Colonial Athletic Association last season, attended just one spring practice session per week to focus on baseball, and the concessions have paid off for him.
Szczur, a 38th-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007 out of high school, has played well for the Wildcats after a full year away from the game. The outfielder and designated hitter ranks 15th in the Big East with a .360 batting average, and his .383 average in conference games stands ninth.
He said that after the coaches worked out his football and baseball schedules for the spring, "my body was healthy in a week, and it was fine."
"I would practice Tuesdays with the football team, and I would come out and play [baseball] if we had a game Tuesday night," he said. "It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but it has worked out."
Godri called Szczur "a pro guy."
"He's one of football's top players, and he's one of our top players," Godri said. "It's done all over the country. You have to be smart. Andy Talley's been fantastic with it because he really wants Matt to do well and be the best player he can be in baseball as well as football."
Szczur was an outstanding catcher at Lower Cape May Regional High, batting .510 his junior year. He increased his average to .681 as a senior when, he said, "I think I struck out once or twice" all season.
Szczur said he chose Villanova because it was the only school that would allow him to play both sports. He had to sit out last baseball season, however, because of sports hernia surgery, so he is a redshirt freshman in that sport.
"I hadn't seen live pitching for a year and a half, so at the start it was very hard to pick up the ball," he said. "I thought I was never going to get it back. But I'd stand in the cages during the pitchers' bullpen sessions just to see the pitches."
Godri saw Szczur's batting eye come around pretty quickly.
"The first night he struck out three times," he said, "and I don't think he struck out for a month and a half after that."
When Szczur returns to football for his junior season, he'll be coming off a season in which he gained almost 1,000 yards between rushing and receiving. His season highlight came against Colgate, when he scored three touchdowns - one each running, receiving, and returning.
Where he spends life after college "depends a lot on the money," he said.
"It's good to have both options because my name's out there [for football] in the CAA," he said. "So whatever is brought to the table, I want to do. This is definitely good. I'm sure I'll be happy with whatever happens."
Said Talley, "Probably his future is in baseball, because he has a tremendous arm, and he's the fastest guy on the field. But he's also one of those guys that the NFL likes to mess around with, sign him as a free agent, and try him at different positions."
So when the time comes, choosing between sports will present another interesting dilemma for Szczur.