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Tom Zbikowski Gives Up $95,000 And Boxing Gloves For $0 and Football Pads

Growing up a Notre Dame fan, I have not experienced a ton of -- lets call it -- success. From the waning years of Lou Holtz's tenure to the disaster that was the Bob Davie years to (sigh) Charlie Weis, I have experienced the biggest lull in Irish football history first hand.

However, now and again, a player stands out as a throwbacks to the glory days. Tom Zbikowski was one of those players. He always seemed to make the play that changed outcomes of games. I am fairly certain (hyperbole alert) with the combination of pick sixes and punt returns, he outscored the entire ND offense in 2005. Zbi is also from Buffalo Grove, making him a Chicago son as well. He was easily my favorite player during that era.

Even better (and cooler) the Raven doubles as a boxer. A highly touted boxer, in fact. Five years ago, Zbi fought in his first professional match, winning easily as his corner, made-up partially of Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija, cheered him on. He was the delight of sports writers, much like Darin Erstad in previous years. Except he wasn't a punter.

Zbi took the lockout as a sign to give the ring another shot, winning two matches since March 23. However, two weeks ago, the safety decided he needed to get back into football shape, withdrawing from a June 4 bout that would have guaranteed the unemployed NFL vet $95,000. 

"I'd like to play football as long as I can, but I still believe I'll box after I'm done football," Zbikowski, 26, said.

Mike Joyce, Zbikowski's lawyer, said he couldn't predict the football player's future but did address the dual-sport aspect that has intrigued Zbikowsk.

"You can't be a part-time boxer, you can't be a part-time football player," Joyce said. "They're totally different worlds."

The bigger question remains, -- as players like Tommy Zbikowski concede other opportunities to prepare for an NFL season that may never happen -- when will the owners make sacrifices of their own? Until then, Zbi doesn't need to be worried about being any type of football player, just a guy training for something that may never come.

Twitter @ZWMartin