Chris Badger returned from his two-year Mormon mission Friday, the first step toward his return to a Notre Dame football team he may hardly recognize.
Badger, a safety who enrolled in the spring semester of 2010, has not yet seen any of the 16 wins or 10 losses the Irish have notched under coach Brian Kelly the past two seasons. And he has yet to meet his new position coach, Bob Elliott, who was hired from Iowa State this offseason to coach the safeties.
But the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Badger, as the South Bend Tribune's Eric Hansen writes, was hardly vacationing these past two years in Ecuador. He worked 70-plus hours each week, waking up at 5:30 every morning to begin workouts he performed to stay in shape for when he returned to Notre Dame, which released him from his scholarship during the mission so that he could transfer with no penalty if he wished to.
But that won't be the case.
"The one thing that didn't change while I was gone was my feeling that Notre Dame was a match made in heaven," Badger said, adding, "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."
The Provo, Utah, native was robbed three times during his mission, including once at gunpoint, Hansen reports. Badger learned Spanish and interacted with the locals about faith. He plans to return one day, but his focus right now is on his return to the field.
"It's to win Notre Dame a national championship," he said. "I'm very serious about that. And I want to be a starter and an All-American."