If I told you Notre Dame just picked up a safety that was originally committed to Stanford and was eligible to participate in fall camp and see the field this year, you would probably be pretty excited right? Well, that is exactly what Notre Dame has with the return of Chris Badger from his Mormon mission two years after enrolling early with the Irish during Brian Kelly’s first year of spring football.
Lost in the off-season shuffle of who will start at quarterback, potential Michael Floyd replacements, and last minute commitments for this year’s class, is the return of Badger, a one time Stanford commitment under then head coach Jim Harbaugh. While the rest of his freshmen class were spending the last two years surviving the roller coaster first two seasons of the Kelly Era, Badger was busy just surviving life in a third world country. Literally.
Badger spent his Mormon mission in Equador working 70 hours a week on top of working out every day with a training program his brother developed for him. In the process he was mugged three times, once at gun point, learned Spanish, and developed a fondness for the people of Equador that caused him to make plans to return later in his life.
A lot has changed on the field for Notre Dame since he was released from his scholarship two years ago to pursue his mission with no commitment that he return to Notre Dame upon completion. Now that he is back though, he has stated that his desire to return to Notre Dame is as strong as ever in a great interview with Eric Hansen.
“The one thing that didn’t change while I was gone was my feeling that Notre Dame was a match made in heaven. When I came on my recruiting visit, I remember praying and receiving a revelation that this is where I need to be and where I can make a difference, and really become a great player, a great person and a great student. I feel even more strongly that way now.”
Once he returns in June, however, he will find a Notre Dame that is quite a bit different. First off, his position coach from spring practice in 2010, Chuck Martin, is now the offensive coordinator for the Irish. The secondary he returns to has a lot of new faces amongst some familiar ones like Jamoris Slaughter, Zeke Motta, Dan McCarthy, and fellow 2010 early enrollee Lo Wood. A lot has happened both on and off the field during the first two years of the Brian Kelly Era as well creating a much different environment than the one Badger left in 2010.
With his mission completed though Badger now turns his eyes to a mission – one on the football field, not in the hills of Equador where he would work out on dirt roads. His goals on the football field are just as ambitious as they were in the hills of the Andes Mountains too. Badger told Hansen his goals are pretty simple – to win a national championship at Notre Dame while becoming a starter and All American in the process. Not too ambitious when you consider that while most of his teammates he is rejoining were busing playing video games in their free time he was busy try to make it home each night without having his shoes stolen.
On the field it’s tough to know what to expect from Badger in 2012. Most people forget that Badger came to Notre Dame with the reputation of being a big time hitter. Forget just how good of a hitter he was in high school? Take a look at this highlight reel below and it’s easy to see why he was recruited by the likes of Notre Dame and Stanford.
Two years away from football and strength training with proper equipment will undoubtedly have Badger playing some catch up this season, but it’s not out the realm of possibility to think that he will see some time on special teams this year as he works his way back into football shape before really pushing for playing time in 2013 at strong safety where Notre Dame will lose likely 2012 starter Jamoris Slaughter to graduation.
Regardless of what he accomplishes on the field, he has already accomplished more off the field than people twice his age. Anything else he accomplishes on the field will just be an added bonus for Badger – and Notre Dame.